Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hebrews 10:14 - Is "them that are sanctified" the entire group?

A few folks objected to my argument from Hebrews 10 (in the Atonement debate over at Contend Earnestly), on the basis that “them that are sanctified” in Hebrews 10:14, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” might (according to the objectors) refer to something less than the entire intended beneficiaries of the sacrifice.

1. That it means all for whom the sacrifice was made, can be seen first from the parallel to verse 1.

In verse 1, it is written, Hebrews 10:1, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.”

This verse provides the basis of comparison against which Christ’s sacrifice is observed to be better. But it appears that προσερχομενους (the comers) is the entire group for whom sacrifices were offered. As you will recall, the person for whom the priest offers the sacrifice is the person who came to the priest and brought the victim to be sacrificed.

Consider, for example:

Leviticus 15:14-15

14And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, and come before the LORD unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and give them unto the priest: 15And the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD for his issue.

It is the comers to the animal sacrifices that were the group for whom the animal sacrifices were made, but they were not made perfect by those sacrifices. In contrast, those for whom the sacrifice of Christ is made are made perfect by that sacrifice. Furthermore, this perfection is already once for all accomplished. The elect will be (and have been) justified in time, but the judicial reconciliation was accomplished on the cross.

2. We also see it in the parallels to other passages:

A. Hebrews 5:7-9

7Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Christ was made perfect as a priest so that he might perfect the intended beneficiaries of his sacrifice: namely those that obey him (aka the elect). This reemphasizes the point above that the single purpose of Christ’s sacrificial work was to save the elect.

B. Hebrews 7:19

19For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

It is here written that the law (that is, the animal sacrifice system) did not make anyone perfect, which is contrasted with the sacrifice of Christ, which did, and by which we can approach God. This reemphasizes that the difference between the old and new sacrifice is that the former did not make its intended beneficiaries perfect, whereas the new does.

C. Hebrews 9:7-12

7But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Here again we see the glorious perfection of Christ compared and contrasted to the impotent animal sacrifices. Christ did not have to offer for his own sins, and when he came into the holy place he came with his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption for us. This reemphasizes the point above that the reconciliation is already bought – already paid for – and that the execution of that reconciliation is now a matter of justice as between Christ as advocate and the godhead. That is to say, Christ has obtained eternal redemption for the elect, and consequently the elect will not perish.

3. The opposite hypothesis (i.e. that “them which are sanctified” is a subgroup of the intended beneficiaries of the sacrifice) is without support in the text.

That is to say, the text gives no hint that there is some other group that is intended to benefit, but that is not perfected by the sacrifice. Furthermore, if such were the case, it would break down the parallel to the Old Testament above. For the old sacrifices contain no parallel to such a bifurcation in the intent of the sacrifice’s benefits.

4. The warning passage in verses 26-29 cannot resuscitate a multiple intention view – instead, it fully undermines it.

Hebrews 10:26-29

26For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

The reason it cannot help the multiple intention view is that in order to press this warning into service, they must state that Christ was sacrificed (vs. 26) for this hypothetical man who was judged, and that consequently he was “sanctified” (vs. 29). This, of course, reinforces the point above, that those for whom the sacrifice was made are equivalent to the sanctified group. The same word for “sanctified” is even used in both cases. Yet, we learn from verse 14 that Christ perfected them that are sanctified. Accordingly, we see that any objection from verses 26-29 just reinforces the original point.

Well, that concludes the short form of the argument. Seth, I've posted this here since I realize that you may be busy over the holiday weekend. If you want to repost it to your blog to keep things in one place, that's fine by me.

May our perfect High Priest be praised!



Anonymous said...

Well TF,

that was succinct and thorough.

It eliminates the multiple intents.

However, I want to make a distinction here about two groups, hence, multiple intentions. Bear with this as you will see what I believe the meaning is for that difficult verse in Hebrews 11:40.

Mat 11:1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
Mat 11:2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples
Mat 11:3 and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?"

What do we have here?

John and Jesus will make the distinction for us. However, again, the distinction is about the use of the "Law" and the use of the "Gospel", not this broad stroke, multi-intent idea being floated for unlimited atonement.

Mat 11:4 And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see:
Mat 11:5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.
Mat 11:6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."

Here Jesus is basic in that He is telling "them" to carry this "Good News"/"Bad News" to John.

My paraphrase:

"John, the Good News is, you suspicions are True, I am here, just as your spirit churns within you! The Bad News, is, you are in jail and will die shortly! See ya in Heaven John, and thanks for all you have done for Me and My House!"

"John", after receiving the "Good News"/"Bad News", muses, "hmmmmm, well my death will be quick and almost painless! Oh well, I am dying for Him, He, on the other hand, is dying for us all, i.e., the Elect, foreknown before the foundation of the world!"

That sums up John's distinction about the intent.

Here now is Jesus':
Mat 11:7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
Mat 11:8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.
Mat 11:9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
Mat 11:10 This is he of whom it is written, "'Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.'
Mat 11:11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Mat 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.
Mat 11:13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,
Mat 11:14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.
Mat 11:15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

He makes the singular distinction here about the intent and purpose for the Law Sacrifices enacted by Moses through Levi "after" the "Gospel".

Then Jesus says this:::>>

Mat 11:16 "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
Mat 11:17 "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'
Mat 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.'
Mat 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds."

I could go on through this whole chapter but I won't. I will point to that verse in Hebrews 11 though:

Heb 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
Heb 11:40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

In my judgment, after reading and studying Scriptures for over 30 years now, this verse from the Book of Daniel makes the point crystal clear about singular intent and not multiple intents:

Dan 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,

Yes, the Gospel first, made to Adam in the Garden, chapter 3, and then throughout the ages until the last day of this created heavens and earth, every generation, God's "own" people, by the power of God and His choosing, raises up His People to fulfill His legal claims and bring about His Word fully and completely through Christ and His Body in the end.

GeneMBridges said...

It seems to me that in order to sustain the opposing view, they will have to agree that Hebrews teaches that the sacrifices are offered for the covenant community in the OT, but they say, like General Redemptionists, that because that community was mixed (elect and reprobate) the sacrifices (as on the Day of Atonement) apply to them both.

There's a flaw in that argument, however, for the typological relationship that Hebrews' own author uses is not based on the mixed nature of the visible covenant community (eg. Israel or in dogmatic language, the visible church). Rather, the typological relation that obtains is that the nation is representative of the elect/believers in the flow of the argument of Hebrews itself. In effect, they are left to argue that the sacrifices are not efficacious for the persons for whom they are offered, which is precisely what the author of Hebrews denies is true of the work of Christ.

Turretinfan said...


That's certainly the approach I've seen from general redemptionists, like Arminians.

To add to what you said, the entire nation of Israel was externally and typically of the elect - they were the elect nation, though of course, inwardly they were not all Israel who were of Israel.

Furthermore, the elect (the true spiritual elect) were not saved at all by the animal sacrifices just as the reprobate (of Israel) were not saved at all by the animal sacrifices.

There is one way under heaven by which men are saved: faith in Christ. For those before Simeon (Luke 2:34-35) and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38) it was in the Christ to come. For those during Christ's earthly ministry and after, it is by faith in the incarnate Christ.


Anonymous said...

I have nothing brilliant to add so I'll just say, "Amen and I agree and great post!"