Holy- Hebrews 10:10-14

In our previous post, we saw that the term holy means “separate, distinct, set apart”, and that something’s holiness describes its relation to God. Only God is “holy”, and anything else called holy is only so because it belongs to Him, because it is set apart for His service. We have also mentioned that the term holy is used in two different ways in the New Testament, and we will now examine Hebrews 10 in order to demonstrate these two uses and see what this means in the life of the believer. We will begin in verse 10, in which we read that by God’s will we (believers) “have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”. The use of the phrase “have been made holy” here describes our existential holiness through the use of the present active indicative of eimi (“to be”) and the perfect passive participle of hagios (holy). What that means is that believers are holy as a fact of their existence, that they have been set apart by God (passive voice) once for all (perfect tense) as belonging to Him as a condition of their existence (present active indicative of eimi). This is reinforced by the use of the Greek epiphax (once for all) at the conclusion of the verse, and the NIV translation as “have been made holy” does an excellent job of capturing in English what the Greek is saying here about our holiness. Believers have been made holy once for all as a condition of their existence and have been set apart as belonging to God, set apart for His service. Having mentioned the sacrifice of Jesus in verse 10, the writer then goes on, in verse 11-12, to contrast the sacrifice of Jesus with the Old Testament sacrifices. This contrast is made primarily in two ways. The first is that the OT sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again, that they were never permanent and final, while the sacrifice of Jesus was “once for all” and will never be repeated. The second is that the OT sacrifices merely covered over sin, while the sacrifice of Christ takes sin away, also once and for all. Having set before us our existential holiness in verse 10, the writer then discusses our ethical holiness in verses 13-14. We must be careful not to separate verse 13 from verse 14, because they are connected by the Greek word gar (for) and present the same thought. Jesus, in verse 13, waits for His enemies to be made His footstool, or more literally to be “put under His feet”. Just what this refers to is clarified by verse 14 in which Jesus has “made perfect forever those who are being made holy”. This verse may seem rather confusing at first glance, but a closer examination will reveal it is actually pretty straightforward in what it says. The first thing we must examine is the use of the term “perfect” here. The Greek term used here is teleos, and it refers to a purpose or a goal. Our normal understanding of perfect is as meaning “flawless or without defect or imperfection”, but that is not what is meant by perfect here. What the writer is telling us here is not that the believer is (or ever will be) flawless and do everything “perfectly”, but that the believer is now able to fulfill his or her true purpose. Human beings are created to be the image and likeness of God, to be the reflection of God to the rest of creation. This is our true purpose, and unbelievers (in whom God does not dwell) cannot reflect God because God is not in them. It is only those who are in Christ and whom Christ is in who are capable of fulfilling their true purpose and reflecting God to the world. That goal or purpose is then made reality in our lives as we “are being made holy”, and we are being made holy as His enemies (primarily sin) are put “under His feet”, as those who would try to keep us from fulfilling our true purpose are overcome, as more and more of our lives belong to God. So we see in this passage that we both have been made holy (existential) and are being made holy (ethical). We belong to God and have been set apart for His service (have been made holy), and we also grow in holiness as more of our lives our set apart for His service and more areas of our lives are given over to Him (are being made holy). It is always the case in the Bible that the ethical flows from the existential. What this means is that in the Bible you do what you are, while in the world you are what you do. Our identity determines our behavior, our behavior does not determine our identity. We have been made holy, and because we have been made holy we will behave in holy ways. We have been set apart as belonging to God as a condition of our existence, holy is what we truly “are”, and as we put His enemies (sin) “under our feet”, our behavior will more and more line up with our true identity, and more and more of our money, time, etc. will be set apart for His service, more and more of our attitudes, words, deeds, etc. will belong to Him. We have been made holy so that it would be possible for us to live holy lives, to live lives characterized by belonging to God and being set apart for His service, and we are being made holy as we put sin under our feet and live as we were meant to live, as Jesus lived, with every moment belonging to God and every thought and deed set apart for His service.

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