In these lines, the apostle concludes his lengthy defense of the superiority of our Savior’s priesthood, sacrifice, and covenant. He has left no stone unturned to reveal the glory of Christ. To overcome the world, faith must be rooted and grounded in Christ, or it will be blown in every direction. It must have been strange for these Jewish believers to receive such a letter. There is nothing in it directing them to run to the hills, as some Jews did at Masada, only to die anyway, or to form a revolutionary front behind a Judas Maccabees, as noble and heroic as he was. They faced the threat of persecution, but the apostle sought only to give them clearer views of Jesus Christ. The practical directions that make up the last section of the book confirm his thesis. The way to endure the hostility of the world is to have clear, believing views of Jesus Christ. The more we know him, the more fearless, hopeful, and fruitful we are.
If we would see his glory and sufficiency, we must walk by faith, as the old covenant saints did (Heb. 11). We are the same with them in this, but with one important difference. We have now arrived at that covenant, kingdom, and city promised to them. We have more incentives and helps to walk by faith. We face the world armed not with fleshly weapons but with those energized by the Spirit, and therefore we must not fight as the world does: making this life all there is, depending upon the arm of flesh, or measuring success by full bellies and safe dwellings. The more glorious city to which we have now come by the saving work of the Son of God calls and empowers us to endure every obstacle, love our enemies, and trust God to bring us finally to our eternal inheritance. What he has done for us in his Son demands and empowers our allegiance in the teeth of the world’s hatred and our joyful patience even when called upon to suffer for Christ’s sake. The glory of Christ in us means that we are changed in the midst of our sufferings so that we endure them patiently and purposefully.
His One Sacrifice Sufficient (vv. 11-13)
Jesus Christ Offered One Sufficient Sacrifice
This “answer” is not satisfying to many professing disciples, and Jesus knew it would not be. There was never a time of greater upheaval and danger than when he came into the world, and yet he taught us to seek his kingdom first, deny ourselves, trust God to take care of us, and never to make our happiness depend upon our lot in this life. His teaching to the extremely nationalistic Jews must have been shocking: submit to the soldiers, pay your taxes, turn the other cheek, love your enemies, and extend endless mercy to others. If we would take these lessons to heart, much of our anxiety would be quenched, as would our polarizing hatred for evil men and frustrations with our circumstances. Our situation is so much better than God’s people of old, if we only had eyes to see this more clearly. Consider that the Levitical priests never sat down. Their sacrificing was never finished, and they continually offered the same sacrifices. The reason: those sacrifices could never take away sin.
This was a profound weakness of the old covenant form of the covenant of grace, and it is the best explanation for the jubilation of the faithful when Jesus Christ came into the world. The repetition of the old covenant sacrifices indicated their impotence; their impotence left the conscience unsettled. This was a very hard way to live (Acts 15:10), and perhaps explains why that age of waiting had plenty of earthly promises attached to the covenant of grace. It is not that we are without such promises, for all God’s promises are ours in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20; Gal. 3:26-29), but they were more prominent then. Through earthly blessings and an earthly kingdom in the family of David, the Lord had mercy upon his waiting and unsettled people. He gave them seasons of outward reprieve and glory, for the inward reality and glory were not yet revealed. He led them through the external blessings, which never lasted and did not ultimately satisfy, to aspire to his spiritual indwelling by the Spirit, full redemption and forgiveness.
Incomparably superior to the Levitical priests, this man, the God-man about whom he has been writing, “offered one sacrifice for sins forever.” I do not think more significant words have ever been strung together. Sin has plagued, ruined, and destroyed our race and this good earth upon which we live. It was forever altered with violent flood waters and cracked with chasms and volcanoes because of our great wickedness. We need not look at the “big events” but only consult our daily lives to see that sin is a horrible misery. Husbands abuse their wives, wives demand their own way, and children rebel. Everywhere we look, there is nothing but brokenness, willfulness, blaming others, and justifying self. It is true that the coming of our Savior into the world has brought significant change and hope, but this is only because of the one sacrifice for sin that he offered.
One! He completely satisfied the justice of God against sinners. He took the entirety of the weight, guilt, and penalty of our sins upon himself. He took the misery of our hell – its sorrows and judicial death – upon himself. The horrific anxiety of the creature separated from his Creator, he took that upon himself judicially, so that he was forsaken by life. Of all the curses that he took, this must have been one of the deepest sucker punches – all the oxygen expelled from his soul as he became sin for us and his Father looked away. His one sacrifice was specific – not a general death, for from him was exacted the penalty warranted by all the sins of all God’s people of all times. His sufferings boggle the imagination, humble the heart, and engorge the affections with undiminishing wonder. Why would he do this? “Having loved his own, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). “I always do those things that please my Father” (John 8:29) – which consideration leads us to our Father’s mercy and love for us that is set, eternal, unvariable (Zeph. 3:17; Eph. 1:4).
Because his one sacrifice is worthy, it is efficacious to make an end of sin, of sacrifice, and of condemnation. He – the Holy One of God – laid down his life for us. He condescended to take our flesh upon himself, enter into our cursed existence, and bear every sorrow and misery brought on by our original rebellion against God and all the personal transgressions that flow from this fountain of corruption. He was the Father’s delight, the Father’s dear one, the Father’s only begotten. The mystery and glory of the cross can only begin to be seen and felt when we remember the Father’s relationship with his Son, and that the Son for a time became sin for us and the judicial object of his Father’s wrath and judgment. And because of his worthiness, because he became the Father’s obedient servant for sinners, the Father received his sacrifice. “It is finished” – sin, wrath, judgment. I have satisfied. All is fulfilled that was written in the law and the prophets. Nothing is left. My God is glorified, my Father honored, my Judge satisfied, and my Bride redeemed.
Jesus Christ Sat Down Triumphant
This explains why Jesus Christ sat down. His sacrifice was perfect. It was received. There is no more offering for sin, as this passage concludes, for Jesus Christ swallowed whole sin and death, guilt and penalty, by his one offering of himself. His sacrifice is worthy, sufficient, and powerful. Sin, death, and judgment, guilt, fear, and alienation from God, met their conqueror that day on Calvary. And the conqueror did not remain in the grave, for the Father raised him to say, “This is my Beloved Son. He has brought in everlasting righteousness (Rom. 4:25). I absolutely accept his sacrifice for my people, for all who will believe in me, and there is no possibility that any other sacrifice can or need be offered. I am the Judge of all; I am satisfied. I see my Son’s sacrifice, his love, his voluntary death in place of sinners.” And now, the Father has exalted his Son, for he has raised him to his right hand. This is to say: Jesus Christ is the sole authority and power in the universe. He is the victorious and enthroned Mediator of the covenant, and the “pleasure of the LORD will prosper in his hand.” He will bring salvation to the farthest coastlands, build his church victorious over the whole earth, cause all nations to flow into its never-closed gates, and fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of God. Jesus Christ sits because his priestly work is finished and his reigning work is proceeding without a doubt of its full and actual accomplishment.
From that place, for the rest of time, he is seated and reigning, expecting the full subjugation of all things under his reign (Eph. 1:10). This is not a waiting of idleness but of confidence and effort. His resting and waiting are for the progressive fulfillment of his Father’s promises to him: the nations discipled, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in, the Jews saved, the desert blossoming as the rose under the influence of his gospel and obedience to his word, and then his second coming to consummate. This expecting or waiting does not mean that nothing is being accomplished until something else happens, as if our Savior were only a king in waiting. This is not a parenthesis in the forward progress of God’s kingdom but the long-expected and promised age of the Spirit. This is Plan A, if you will – for Jesus Christ to come and bring in everlasting righteousness, pour out his Spirit upon all flesh, and grow his church to fill the earth. This expecting, powerful reign of our Savior will be accomplished (Isa. 42:4). He will establish justice in the earth by faith in his gospel, submission to his word, and the regenerating work of his Spirit. He has all authority. Those who resist him will be brought to nothing, in history (Isa. 60:12), throughout history (Matt. 13:31-33; Rev. 19:11-15), and at the end of history (2 Thess. 1:8-9).
His One Sacrifice Perfected Us (v. 14)
By Taking Away Sin
Each one of us must understand the power of Christ’s sacrifice in his life, so that we are settled in the face of adversity and endeavor to be consecrated to our Savior who loves us so much. To explain this, the Spirit deliberately chose two different verb tenses to describe the transformative effects of Christ’s one sacrifice. First, Jesus made us perfect by his one offering. The verb “made perfect” is a perfect active verb. The perfect stresses the once-for-all, definitive perfecting accomplished by his sacrifice. The active voice stresses Christ’s personal agency. He laid down his life for us in order to make us perfect before God. All the barriers that our sin created between us and the holy God have been removed. God’s justice is satisfied. Jesus bore our guilt and our penalty, so that we are no longer under condemnation. We also have perfect righteousness imputed to us, and our sins are completely forgiven for the sake of Jesus. This very personal implication of Christ’s one-time sacrifice is critical for us to take into our souls. God is reconciled to us! The blood of Christ has removed all barriers, satisfied all claims, and obtained full redemption for us. Whatever we face in this life, heaven is open to us. We look upon the face of a reconciled God, who promises never to leave or forsake us, to give us help in every trouble, to hear our every prayer, and to preserve us forever by his power so that no one can pluck us out of his hand or frustrate his work in our lives. The finished work of Christ, his perfecting of us by his one sacrifice, is thus the foundation for assurance, solid joy, and unshakable hope. Without this hope, we shall never resist and overcome sin and the world.
By Bearing Fruit unto Holiness
The second half of the verse stresses that the definitive perfection results in progressive transformation. The verb “are sanctified” is a present participle, stressing the ongoing nature of our sanctification. It is also in the passive voice, which means we do not sanctify ourselves; Christ sanctifies us by the Spirit’s presence and power. What we have here, then, is a very clear statement that the definitive perfection and the progressive sanctification are inseparable. Both are the fruits of Christ’s once-forever sacrifice. But this is not stated to reinstitute a regime of guilt but to encourage holding fast to Christ. Do we face obstacles in living for him? Are we threatened so fiercely that it is a temptation to drift away from Christ? The Spirit says, “Look at the cross, the perfect sacrifice of Christ, for two reasons. First, you are cleansed, forgiven, and righteous. Do not measure God’s love and acceptance by your present imperfections but by what his Son has done for you on the cross. Second, do you need strength to be faithful? Look to Jesus. Ask him to make you holy. Do not think first to get out of a hard situation but to honor him in it with the strength he gives. Jesus guarantees this help by giving me to you!”
His One Sacrifice Secured Forgiveness (vv. 15-18)
The Lord Promised
The Holy Ghost said – what an encouraging and settling reminder that our religion did not spring from the mind of man but from the mind of God. The Old Testament Scriptures, moreover, no less than the New, are the revelation of the eternal Word through the Spirit (2 Pet. 1:11). This is a shield Satan cannot shatter and a sword he cannot break. All the truth we need to withstand the lies and temptation of the flesh and of the devil, all the strength we need to endure the assaults of men, God has spoken them to us by his Spirit. This is the reason for bringing forward the promises of the old covenant once again. First, Jeremiah promised that in the days of the Messiah, we would enjoy a great renewal. God would write his laws upon our mind and heart, which is another way of saying that he would renew our natures so that we are made able to repent and to believe the gospel. This is all and only the work of the Holy Spirit, as our Lord taught Nicodemus (John 3:1-8). The faith that lays hold of Christ is God’s gift (Eph. 2:8-9). We do not produce it. We cannot see it and do not even know our need of it. The Spirit regenerates us, resurrects us from the spiritual death into which sin cast us, and renews our entire nature toward God, truth, and holiness. The great fruit (v. 14) of Christ’s one-time sacrifice, therefore, was promised by Jeremiah. Christ has brought the promised perfection. Not only should fulfilled prophecy arm us with confidence and zeal against the devil, but we should also worship God for his faithfulness. He has kept his promise. No longer is he opposed to us on account of our wicked works, but he has made us his children. Since we could not stop being his enemies or stop being dead, he has made us alive by his Spirit.
And notice the great, personal implications of this new life. Our entire natures become renewed so that loving God’s word and thinking his thoughts becomes our delight, as it was our Savior’s. God changes us, definitively by regeneration and progressively as we are governed by the Spirit so that we give ourselves to the word and prayer. We must be clear on this, for Satan has ever tried to bury the truth about regeneration or the new birth under the bushel baskets of moralism, good works and guilt, or ceremonies and second blessings. Made-alive believers in Jesus face the world, think about the world, and live in the world very differently from dead men who do not know God and are without hope in the world. First, we love God’s truth (2 Thess. 1:10). Loving his word, he also gives us the power to obey it. Satan will resist our obedience and steadfastness, but the Spirit in us is greater than the devil. We have a power he does not want us to know we have – not magic, formulas, and good intentions, but the indwelling Spirit effecting a new nature and progressively strengthening us (Eph. 1:16-17; 3:15-17). If you believe in Jesus, think of yourself, as the apostle commands, as dead to sin and alive in Christ” (Rom. 6:11). Since God has given you new life in his Son, nothing the world can do can take this life away or prevent him from bringing it to consummation (Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 1:12). We would serve God more boldly and selflessly if we called to mind more often the wonder of the new life he has given to us in his Son. Christians are walking miracles in the world; all others remain blind, leprous, and dead until quickened. Do not be afraid of the dead. Rejoice to be alive in Christ and consecrate his life in you to his service!
The Offerings Done
Since Christ’s new life unfolds progressively in us, we are tempted to doubt its reality. Much sin remains in us, but notice the second promise of the new covenant. God does not remember them (v. 18). Here is something wholly unanticipated, except in the word of God. The day would come when a sacrifice would be offered of such perfect, such lasting efficacy, with God’s full acceptance and benediction upon each drop spilled, that our sins would be buried in the sea, cast away, never to be remembered. This alone, if we thought more of it, would utterly captivate us and fill us with intense zeal to show our thankfulness to God. What! He has forgiven my sins? He requires nothing more of me? Does this include me, who led a debauched life of such filth that my past fills me with dread of judgment? Yes, it includes the vilest offender, who truly believes. Does it include me, who grew up hearing the gospel, but sinned presumptively, brazenly against better convictions? Shall I not be beaten with many stripes, for I knew my Master’s will and did not do it? It includes you, for Jesus Christ was beaten for you. He bore all your many stripes, and you are cleansed when you trust his blood.
We need to hear constantly about the full forgiveness Jesus Christ has purchased for us. We are blessed with the gospel of repentance and forgiveness, and it is our glorious message to lost and dead men (Luke 24:27). Turn to Christ, forsake your sins, and be fully forgiven! Call upon him now. And yet, one of Satan’s most effective attacks against believers is to throw our sins and failures back in our face. You a Christian? You have an interest in Christ? He has forgiven you? You are a child of God? We throw right back in his face the blood of Christ and the promise of God. “I am vile, devil, but Jesus Christ became vile for me. He bore my stripes. I am perfect and acceptable before God not because I am as good as I ought to be but because he was good and perfect for me. So, throw my sins in my face, and stir up the world to torment, ridicule, and afflict, but I will hold up the cross before you and the world. Do you feel this, crushed worm, the death stake that pierced your head? It is my seal of pardon, my hope of holiness, and my guarantee of life forever with Jesus Christ.” Let us look to Jesus, trust his finished work, and rejoice that “there is no longer any offering for sin to be made.” Jesus paid it all. All who look to him are forgiven and cleansed.