Already/Not Yet

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We come to yet another passage of Scripture where we see the work of Christ in our lives as “already/not yet”

  • He HAS perfected those who are being perfected….
  • He HAS sanctified those who are being sanctified…

John Piper, in a sermon “Perfected for All Time by a Single Offering”

Now we come to our focus in verse 14: “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Turn your eyes upon Jesus here and see two things about Jesus that relate directly to your life today.

1. First notice that Christ has perfected his people, and it is already complete. “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” He “has” done it. And he has done it “for all time.” The perfecting of his people is complete and it is complete forever. Does this mean that Christians don’t sin? Don’t get sick? Don’t make mathematical errors in school? That we are already perfect in our behavior and attitudes?

There is one clear reason in this very verse for knowing that is not the case. What is it? It’s the last phrase. Who are the people that have been perfected for all time? It is those who “are being sanctified.” This is why the tense is so important. Now “those who are being sanctified” are not yet fully sanctified in the sense of committing no more sin. Otherwise they would not need to go on being sanctified. So here we have the shocking combination: the very people who “have been perfected” are the ones who “are being sanctified.” Besides, you can also remember from chapters 5 and 6, that these Christians he is writing to are anything but perfect. For example, in 5:11 he says, “You have become dull of hearing.” So we may safely say that “perfected” does not mean that we are sinlessly perfect in this life.

Well what does it mean? The answer is given in the next verses (15-18). The writer explains what he means by quoting Jeremiah again on the new covenant, namely, that in the new covenant which Christ has sealed now by his blood, there is total forgiveness for all our sins. Verses 17-18 “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” So he explains the present perfection in terms of forgiveness. Christ’s people are perfected now in the sense that God puts away all our sin (9:26), forgives them, and never brings them to mind again as a ground of condemnation. In this sense we stand before him perfect. When he looks on us he does not impute any of our sins against us, past, present or future. He does not count our sins against us.

2. Verse 14 tells us plainly: “By one offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” So notice, secondly, for whom Christ has done this perfecting work on the cross. You can put it provocatively like this: Christ has perfected once and for all those who are being perfected. Or you could say (and the writer does say as much in verse 10): Christ has fully sanctified those who are now being sanctified. Or Christ has fully accomplished and guaranteed the holiness of those who are now being made holy.

What this means is that you can know that you stand perfect in the eyes of your heavenly Father if you are moving away from your present imperfection toward more and more holiness by faith in his future grace. Let me say that again, because it is full of encouragement for imperfect sinners like us, and full of motivation for holiness. This verse means that you can have assurance that you stand perfected and completed in the eyes of your heavenly Father not because you are perfect now, but precisely because you are not perfect now but are “being sanctified“, “being made holy”, that, by faith in God’s promises, you are moving away from your lingering imperfection toward more and more holiness. (See Hebrews 10:32-35; 11:24-26 etc. for examples of how faith in future grace sanctifies.)