Saturday, 19 January 2019
For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. Hebrews 10:2
The Greek word translated as “For then” is one given to, “Assume what precedes is true, and understand what follows to be appropriate and applicable” (HELPS Word Studies). The author has just been speaking of the sacrifices which were offered “continually year by year.” He noted that they could never “make those who approach perfect.” The reason for this is that if they could, then would they not have ceased to be offered?” The Greek is more forceful, using a present participle. It should say, “cease being offered.” The idea is the constant, unending stream of sacrifices which is being highlighted.
Despite this, the question is obvious, and it shows the inherent imperfection in the annual rite. The very fact that the Day of Atonement came about every year, and that the people needed to observe it every year, actually highlighted that it was incapable of bringing those who observed it to perfection. If those sacrifices could have made them perfect, they would, in fact, have ceased to be offered. This is in contrast to Christ. His offering was a one-time for all-time offering for sin as verse 9:28 so poignantly noted.
The author next continues after his question by pronouncing the reality of the situation –
Question: For then would they not have ceased to be offered?
Statement of fact: For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.
If, in fact, the Day of Atonement rites could have made those who approach perfect, those who observed it “would have had no more consciousness of sins.” The author, using the term, “once purified,” shows that no such one-time purification took place. The idea of the word “perfect” doesn’t mean “almost perfect.” Rather, there would have been a single observance of the Day of Atonement for any given individual, and that person would then be perfected; no longer needing to go back for a sin-covering tune-up. But the high priest was high priest for life, and he had to sacrifice for his own sin each and every time he went in. If he wasn’t perfected, then neither were those on whose behalf he ministered. The very rites performed witness to their inability to resolve the situation they were supposed to resolve.
The “consciousness of sin” spoken of here does not mean “memory,” as if there is no more memory of having sinned. It rather speaks of an understanding of the need for atonement for sins committed after the sacrifice. In other words, and as an example, one could think of one’s own health –
If a person had a sickness that might lead to death, he would obviously go to a doctor to receive the cure for his ailment. If the person was cured, the question proposed by the author here would then be valid. If he went one time and was cured forever, never to get sick and possibly die again, then he would never need to go to a doctor again. He would have passed from being mortal to immortal. However, if he could get sick again, then – if and when he got sick – he would need to go again for treatment. This would demonstrate that he was not perfected by the doctor each time he went. Anytime a sickness arose, it would be a reminder of his mortal state. However, if he was cured, one-time and for all-time, then he would no longer have a consciousness of his mortality. This doesn’t mean he wouldn’t remember that he was once mortal, but he would no longer have a consciousness of bearing that mortal state.
This is what the author is saying about our fallen state. We have an infection, sin, which under the Law of Moses could not be completely cured. It only received a temporary fix, but it never perfected those who came for their hoped-for cure. Taking the verses (Hebrews 10:1, 2) and simply changing the appropriate words to physical health reveals the spiritual state of Israel under the law –
“For the hospital, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same medicines, which they administer continually (any time that a person got sick), make those who approach immortal. For then would they not have ceased to be administered? For the mortals, once cured completely, would have had no more consciousness of their mortal state.”
Think of it! If the wages of sin is death, and Jesus is the cure for that state, then when one comes to Jesus, he goes from sin, leading to death, to no sin, having obtained immortality. The cure is Christ.
Life application: As with every newly introduced thought in the book of Hebrews, the author assures, and reassures, the reader of the concept of freedom from guilt. He also assures the reader of eternal salvation. In Christ, all things are made new. Jesus asks you to leave all of your feelings of guilt at His cross, and then to accept that you are saved. Jesus Christ did not die to grant eternal insecurity, but rather eternal life. If someone tells you that you can lose your salvation, gently remind them that they have no idea what they are talking about. Then tell them to go get sound theology, and to stop harming the faith of those who have been, once and forever, purified by the precious blood of Christ. Who would dare call the sufficiency of His atonement into question? Make the effort today to trust Christ, and to trust that He has eternally cleansed you from your offenses.
O God we thank you for the complete and eternal cleansing power of the cross. Glory, honor, and majesty belong to You for the mighty deliverance You brought about on our behalf. Truly no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him! But now in Christ, we have seen that marvel. Amen.