Christianity 201

October 31, 2017

Who Has Christ’s Sacrifice Made Perfect Forever?

by Russell Young

There seems to be common acceptance that Christ’s sacrificial offering has made the redeemed one perfect forever. Hebrews 10:14 is used to promote this understanding. “[B]ecause by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (NIV)

There are some observations concerning the placement and the contents of this passage that need to be considered. The writer has been presenting the efficacy of the “unblemished” sacrifice of Christ as compared to the need of the Old Covenant priests to offer a sacrifice for their own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance every time they entered the inner room. He has presented that since the sacrifice of Christ was unblemished and offered once there is no longer any need for further sacrifices.

The theme of his efficacy has been presented several times in preceding passages, but how does the writer’s teaching affect understanding of a person’s eternal perfection? Previously he had written that “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Heb 6:4─6 NIV) This does not support eternal perfection for those who “fall away.” The passage needs to be contrasted to, and considered along with his teaching about having been made perfect forever. Christ will not be crucified again; his offering was made once. Those who “fall away,” and there will be some, will be deprived of further hope. The writer’s point is that the confessor was made perfect and if he or she continues in the process of “being made holy” that perfection will remain.

The forever perfection that he references applies to only a select group of the redeemed. While one passage references those who fall away, the second references those who remain faithful to Christ, those who are progressing through sanctification and who are being made holy. The development of personal holiness following a person’s redemption is achieved by the Spirit’s ministry as he or she lives righteously in this world. Paul has written, “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Rom 6:19 NIV Italics added.) For those who accept that Christ’s imputed righteousness is sufficient, Paul has also written that “By faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (Gal 5:5 NIV Italics added.) The needed righteousness is being “awaited.” There are many passages that present the need to be led by the Holy Spirit if the redeemed person is to be eternally saved. (Heb 5:9; Rom 8:4, 8: 13─14, Jn 10:27; Gal 5: 18) Paul further admonished believers, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV)

The point of the Hebrews 10:14 passage is that the sacrificial offering of Christ will only be made once and that it is sufficient to keep perfect those who are being made holy. John has addressed these people as those who are “walking in the light.” “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, the Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:7 NIV Italics added.) Obedience is the practice of faith and only the obedient are believers (Heb 3:18─19); not all confessors.

Hebrews 10:14 should not be represented to imply or to affirm that the offering of Christ made the redeemed person perfect forever, but only the obedient (Heb 5:9) redeemed. It is from Christ’s single offering that perfection comes, and it is only effective for those who are being made holy.


Over the past year many of you have gotten to know Russell Young’s writing here at C201. He’s recently written a much longer piece, Have All Your Sins Been Forgiven?, which we’ve posted on its own page at this link.


Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

 

April 3, 2016

The Resurrection of Christ

•••by Russell Young

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most astounding and celebrated events in the history of Christianity. His resurrection not only provides evidence of the reality of one’s eternal hope but it is also the means by which that hope is obtained. Peter wrote that the Lord’s resurrection has given us “new birth into a living hope.” Praise be to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade-kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1: 3-4, NIV)

The Lord’s resurrection has given us “a new birth” and “into a living hope.” Some take this to be “victory over the grave.” The new birth is just that…a birth, the beginning of a new life, a new opportunity, and it is this provision along with “a living hope” that comes through the resurrection of Christ.

Previous to the resurrection of Christ, one’s hope of glory rested in obedience to the law and the Prophets. The law had no life but was etched in stone. Paul said that it kills.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV) The hope that had been revealed through the law was really no hope at all because no one could satisfy it. The “living hope” is the presence of Christ living “in” the believer. As Holy Spirit He enlightens, leads and empowers for victory over the flesh, the Evil One, and the world. Paul wrote to the Colossians that it was Christ in them who was their hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) He is their hope because the righteous requirements of the law must be met for those who will be privileged to dwell with the Lord in His Heavenly Kingdom and they are met through the ministry of the Spirit as the believer allows Him to live through them. (Romans 8:4)

A hope is an expectation, not a surety. As Paul wrote, Who hopes for what he already has.” (Romans 8:24) The believer has not won the victory nor has it been won for him; he has been given all that is necessary to win it through the Divine Power, the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:3) God’s righteous requirements must be satisfied must be achieved for those who will dwell in His kingdom since without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

Justification-sacrifice-resurrectionWhile the sacrificial offering of Christ “justified” the believer concerning his past sins (Hebrews 9:15), His resurrection is also required for one’s justification. (Romans 4:25) The believer should not be confused; he was not justified through the blood offering of Christ at the time of his confession of faith concerning all sins and sinning. He must still work out his salvation (Philippians 2:12). The Holy Spirit provided through the resurrection of Christ is the means by which he can satisfy the law and achieve the righteous requirements of God. One’s immoral interests have to be cleansed from those practices that would bring about his death. How much more then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences [moral consciousness] from acts that lead to death.” (Hebrews 9:14, NIV)

Justification results when one has satisfied God’s government concerning His laws. The practice of sin must be stopped, otherwise judgment for transgressions is required for one to be fully justified. To avoid the law’s consequence, the believer must be led by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:18) That is, the resurrection of Christ, who is the Spirit, is needed to rescue the believer from the body of death (that brings death) so that he might be justified concerning the laws of God. James affirmed, You see a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24, NIV)

All of this is to say that the resurrection of Christ allows for His Spirit to indwell the believer so that He might become an offering acceptable to God. (Romans 15:16) Peter states that it is through the resurrection of Christ that the believer is able respond to (“answer’) God with a good conscience. (1 Peter 3:21) Luke has recorded that following the Lord’s resurrection He blessed us by turning us from our wicked ways. (Acts 3:26)

The resurrection of Christ should be a time of celebration and a time of hope. He is not in the grave but as Spirit is present in the believer allowing him to gain victory over those things that would otherwise bring about his eternal death. Without His resurrection mankind would remain without hope, having to live the law and subject to death for failure. He is the believer’s living hope.

July 22, 2012

He Is Our Peace: Blood Tears Down a Wall

The reconciliation of God’s people

11 So remember that once you were Gentiles by physical descent, who were called “uncircumcised” by Jews who are physically circumcised. 12 At that time you were without Christ. You were aliens rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promise. In this world you had no hope and no God. 13 But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. 15 He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. 16 He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God.

17 When he came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near. 18 We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit. 19 So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household. 20 As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord. 22 Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.

~Ephesians 2:11-22 (Common English Bible)

Another longer post today.  Maybe we should rename this Christianity 401. The blogger we feature today is Morgan Guyton, a United Methodist Pastor. I encourage to read this — and other posts — at his blog, Mercy Not Sacrifice, where it appeared under the title, How can blood tear down a wall? Sacrifice in Ephesians 2:11-22

This past weekend, I preached on Ephesians 2:11-22. It’s one of my favorite passages because it talks about how Jesus tears down the walls between us. And at first glance it would seem like a great opportunity to talk about how important it is for the church to fight racism and take on all the “us vs. them” conflicts in our day that build walls between people. But there was a line that confronted me in the passage that I felt like I couldn’t just treat as a rhetorical flourish as I’d so often read it before. I needed to be able to explain it. Paul says, “You who were far have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” That line doesn’t make any sense unless you read it with some understanding of the central purpose of sacrifice in the community of the ancient Israelites. Only through the lens of sacrifice can we understand how the blood of Jesus can tear down the wall that had kept the Gentiles out of the Jewish temple.

The Jerusalem temple in the time of Jesus was defined architecturally by a series of walls that only certain people were allowed to go inside. The outer area of the temple was the court of Gentiles, where money changers and animal vendors could come to sell their wares to Jewish pilgrims who traveled long distances to sacrifice in the Jerusalem temple and weren’t able to bring cattle from their own flocks with them if they owned cattle. Another group of Gentiles who would hang around the temple were called “God-fearers.” These were Gentiles who believed in the Jewish God but were unable or unwilling to go through the process of fully converting to Judaism.

The “dividing wall” that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2:14 is the wall separating the inner temple complex from the court of Gentiles. Archaeologists have found several signs that originally hung on this wall around the inner temple saying: “No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows.”

Notice the way the sign is written. It doesn’t say that the Jewish authorities in charge of the temple would kill any foreigner. It is simply indicating that people who enter do so at their own risk of imminent death. The Jews believed that strongly that the divine power inside the temple would be enough to kill someone who was not properly prepared to face it. So what in the world happened in their temple that would cause them to feel this way?

We go to our temples and houses of worship today to sing, pray, read scripture, and hear sermons. We do not ritualistically slaughter and burn an animal as the centerpiece of our worship act. But that’s what the Jewish people did. Animal sacrifice was the means that God gave His people in Leviticus to make their people clean.

It’s important to understand that the ancient Jewish understanding of cleanliness was completely different than the modern understanding of cleanliness. In modernity, we define cleanliness according to biological terms. Being clean means you wash your hands with antibacterial soap and wipe your countertop to avoid attracting ants. In ancient Israel, cleanliness referred to the social chemistry of the community. Things were unclean that would disrupt the social chemistry and create conflict between people. In order to stay clean, the people had an elaborate “law with commandments and ordinances” that Paul references in Ephesians 2:15. At the center of the law was the ritual of sacrifice.

Sacrifice as well had a completely different meaning for ancient Jews than it does for us. Today it means “giving up something for the sake of a greater good,” like sacrificing on my weekly food budget for a few months so I can save money for an airline ticket to Hawaii. Though the Israelites were commanded to offer the best 10% of their flock to God, the primary meaning of the word sacrifice for them didn’t have to do with the loss of giving something up, but with the violence within the ritual of sacrifice. It was through the violence and hideousness of slaughtering an animal that the unnamed violence in the air of the community could be named, laid out before people, and then put in God’s hands through the fire of the altar. Using the violence of sacrifice that God had provided for them as a resource, Jewish people were able to clear the air of their community and dissipate any bad blood between them through the blood of the animal on the altar.

In this context of a society that depended upon the cleanliness created through a powerful violent ritual, it seems reasonable that Jews would worry about what would happen to the transformative space they experienced in their temple if Gentile tourists were given permission to walk through. So they told them they would have to sign on fully to the Jewish covenantal system before being allowed to enter. Note that this dividing wall wasn’t about separating races; it was about drawing the boundaries without which a powerful ritual could not occur.

The problem was that the temple cult gave too much power to the religious authorities in charge and they became corrupted as anyone would in their position. It turned into a sacrifice industrial complex. Then a young rabbi from Galilee named Jesus rolled into town and caused a ruckus in the court of the Gentiles throwing all the money changers out, calling the whole place a “den of thieves.” When the chief priests decided to arrest and crucify Jesus, they did not realize that they were creating the means by which their own vocational function would become obsolete. They didn’t make the connection between the lambs that they slaughtered and burned on the altar every week and the innocent man they were putting on the cross.

But because of the chief priests’ unwitting complicity with God’s plan, Jesus became “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). His blood became the violence that absorbs every other violence named and unnamed throughout the world. A very common misunderstanding of sacrifice is that it’s something that is done to “appease” God’s anger. This may have been true about other ancient gods, but Israel’s God YHWH makes it pretty clear through His prophets (Isaiah 1:10-17, Micah 6:6-8, etc.) that He didn’t get any pleasure out of sacrifice except insofar as it served as the system by which His people were made clean of sin so they could do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

Jesus’ sacrifice makes peace between us and God the same way that the animal sacrifices of the ancient Israelites did for them, but it’s not because there’s any obstacle on God’s end of the relationship to His full, perfect love for us. Our sin simply keeps us from entering His presence with any degree of integrity or confidence without the assurance of the sacrifice that He has made on our behalf. We hate the light and flee to the darkness when our deeds are evil (John 3:19), so God provides a means through Christ for us to walk into His light without shame and with a purification that we don’t have to provide for ourselves.

The dividing walls that keep us out of God’s temple today are not anything that humans have built. They are rather walls within our hearts that keep us from coming clean before God. Many different walls are possible, but there are basically two types. Walls of pride are built out of our accomplishments and acts of piety when they serve the purpose of proving our faithfulness to God and hiding our sin and inadequacy. Walls of shame are built from the piles of our failures and obvious embarrassments; they keep us from believing we could ever be worthy of God’s acceptance.

Both walls of shame and pride share a basic misconception: that God expects us to be good. No one is good except for God alone. We are only good to the degree that we have allowed God to overpower us and accomplish His good through us. God doesn’t expect us to be good; God longs for us to be clean. He wants to take away all the bad blood and hidden ugliness that we have accumulated by washing our hearts clean in the blood of Jesus. Yes, it is a bizarre concept in our science-shaped world: that blood could make people clean, but there’s a truth to the logic of ancient sacrifice that has been proven through the witness of millions of Christians throughout history whose lives have been changed utterly by Jesus’ sacrifice.

How does Jesus’ blood tear down the walls of the Jerusalem temple? By changing the entire concept of temple from a place where you go to make yourselves clean before God using His prescribed ritual sacrifice to the place in all of our hearts where Jesus comes to take our sins away and make us clean again. It is only because of Jesus’ sacrifice that Paul can say, “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Peace is not something that can be established on the basis of rational discourse. We will always be able to come up with reasons why our adversaries are the ones who will not make peace with us. Peace is made between people who have been made clean by God, and that kind of piece makes all of us into one body and one temple where the God who we were created to enjoy can be glorified through our worship.

~Morgan Guyton

Related Post:  June 15, 2012: The Ground is Level at the Foot of the Cross

June 26, 2011

To See The King of Heaven Fall In Anguish To His Knees

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A seven minute listening experience for you today with one of the UKs top worship composers, Stuart Townend; the song simply titled Gethsemane. 

April 14, 2011

Looking For (God’s) Love in All the Wrong Places

About fourteen months ago, I ran a profile/interview with Kevin Sanders aka Kuya Kevin, a guy from Alabama who finds himself doing youth ministry in The Philippines.  Yesterday, I dropped by his blog and found something I thought would fit in really well at C201.  It appeared at his blog under the title, The Cross:  God’s Revelation of Love.

Easter Sunday is quickly approaching. It’s the time when we think more about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I’d like for all my readers to reflect on the cross as God’s ultimate revelation of love to us.

Let’s think about this whole concept of revelation.  Here’s what it means: we would not know God completely unless He chose to reveal Himself to us.

We can know some things about God by simply observing the universe in which we live.  Paul talks about this in the Book of Romans:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
-Romans 1:20

But these general observations (called “general revelation” by theologians) can only take us so far.  We need more information to know who God is and what He is like.  This is where the Scriptures come in: they teach us about a holy, loving God whose character is nothing like ours.

The apex (high point) of God’s revelation comes in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the Cross.  The Bible describes it this way:

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
-Romans 5:8

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
-John 15:13


Here is our problem: we often look to the wrong place to “see” God’s love. Sadly, this is true of believers and non-believers alike.

Here’s what I mean–we tend to ask questions like this:

  • “If God loves me, why did this happen to me?”
  • “If God loves me, why am I in so much pain?”
  • “If God loves me, why isn’t my life going the way I want?”

Do you understand the problem?  We will always be disappointed if we simply rely on our life circumstances as “proof” of God’s love. It would go something like this:

  • I had a good day today.  God must love me.
  • I’m heartbroken.  God must not love me.
  • I got a pay raise.  God must love me.
  • I got stuck in traffic.  God must not love me.

It reminds me of the “he loves me, he loves me not” game that children play with flower petals.

Please don’t misunderstand me here–I know that disappointment with God is a very normal human emotion.  God understands these feelings, and even allowed them to be recorded in Holy Scripture (the Psalms, for example).

But disappointments in life do not change what Jesus has done on the Cross. Do you want to know how much God loves you?  Don’t look at your difficulties.  Look instead to the cross!  Jesus has already proven His love through his sacrificial death.

~Kevin Sanders

March 1, 2011

At The Cross I Bow My Knee; There’s No Greater Love Than This

Seven million people have watched this.  With Easter coming, here is a song to ask your worship leader to include in a worship service this year.

October 16, 2010

Redeemer Saviour Friend

Another classic worship song suitable for use all year long, but especially for Easter or Communion.   This is the version of this from BCAD, an unusual Hosanna Integrity album from a few years back that can only be described as worship meets evangelism.  There are many versions of this song online. Listen the first time and then replay it and sing along.

I know You had me on Your mind
When You climbed up on that hill
For You saw me with eternal eyes
While I was yet in sin
Redeemer Saviour Friend

Every stripe upon Your battered back
Every thorn that pierced Your brow
Every nail drove deep through guiltless hands
Said that Your love knows no end
Redeemer Saviour Friend

Oh Redeemer redeem my heart again
Saviour come and shelter me from sin
You’re familiar with my weakness
Devoted to the end
Redeemer Saviour Friend

So the grace
You pour upon my life
Will return to You in praise
And I’ll gladly
Lay down all my crowns
For the name by which I’m saved
Redeemer Saviour Friend

by Chris Springer and Darrell Evans Integrity’s © 1999 Hosanna! Music & Integrity’s Praise! Music