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Friday, December 7, 2018

Mercy and Grace to Help in Time of Need: Sin, Suffering, Sanctification


Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18


Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16


Let us dig a bit deeper into these verses.


Jesus suffered, being tempted, Hebrews 2:18, and Jesus, in every respect, has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15.


It seems pretty clear, when you put Hebrews 2:18 and Hebrews 4:15 together, that Jesus suffered being tempted means that in the many temptations He endured, without sinning, the suffering came in his resisting those temptations to sin – never giving in to sin.


And isn’t endurance in resisting sin the point of the following in Hebrews 12:1-16?


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.


My question, though is: how is Jesus thus  “able to help those who are being tempted”?


Well, if the totally innocent Jesus was prepared to accept all that unjust scourging, reviling and crucifixion without any reviling in return or any other sinful reaction, surely we can also cop a lot from the world and still resist the temptations to sin? John 15:18-20; 1 Peter 2:19-25. Surely we can do our own bit of enduring, resisting and suffering for Christ. Matthew 5:10-12; Acts 5:41; Romans 5:3; 12:12; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Colossians 1:24; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 3:14;  4:12-13.

                                            The 17th century Puritan, John Owen, said:

"There are three things, of which tempted believers do stand in need:

·       Strength to withstand their temptations;

·       Consolations to support their spirits under them;

·       Seasonable deliverance from them.

Unto these is the succor afforded by our High Priest suited; and it is variously administered to them:

·       By his word or promises;

·       By his Spirit; (and, that by communicating to them supplies of grace or spiritual strength; strong consolation; by rebuking their tempters and temptations); and

·       By his providence disposing of all things to their good and advantage in the issue." [ “succor” means “help.” Emphasis mine]

Another then added: “Those who are peculiarly tempted and severely tried, have an especial interest in, and claim upon Christ. They, particularly, may go with boldness to the throne of grace, where they shall assuredly obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Were the rest of the Scripture silent on this subject, this verse might be an ample support for every tempted soul.”

And when Hebrews 4:16 says: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” my question again is: how and why do we draw near to the throne of grace? Well, why we need to draw need to the throne of grace is explained as the verse goes on to add, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

How do we draw near to the throne of grace?

If we confess our sins, He is gracious to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

And, as Hebrews 9:14 says: how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The Holy Spirit, through the blood of Christ, supplies the grace we need to forgive us of our sins. Just at this point, read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (quoted in full on next page), noting vss 7 and 8 as they connect with vss 3-6!!

As Zechariah 12:10 had predicted: And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a Spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

And as Hebrews 9:14 implies in saying:

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit of God, Matthew 12:28, and the Spirit plays a part as the sprinkling of Christ’s blood  cleanses us of sin. The Holy Spirit, working in Jesus’ life, enabled Him to offer a sacrifice without blemish, and the same Spirit can work through the blood of Christ to purify our conscience from dead works, when we come to the throne of grace - acknowledging our sins to God, and asking for forgiveness, because God said, as part of the New Covenant arrangement, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”


Now study the following verses from Hebrews 10:9-18,


“Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.


The point here is that, in contrast to the repeated sacrifices of the Old Covenant, Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for all the sins of all time, and it was a single offering: “when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.” Hebrews 10:12. This is the reason forgiveness is part and parcel of the New Covenant.


Verse 10 says we have been sanctified (made holy) through that single offering, while verse 14 says he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Why does one verse put our sanctification  as a completed, past reality, but the other verse says that Christ has perfected (perfect tense) for all time those who continue to be sanctified - a reality in progress??!! Why the difference?


"We have been sanctified" in Hebrews 10:10 is perfect tense, meaning a present state resulting from the past

action of Christ. We stand today as sanctified, because of Christ's once for all sacrifice, while Hebrews 10:14 uses

a present passive participle that must be saying that by that one sacrifice He has perfected for all time those who

are now continuing to be sanctified - at this present moment sanctified, which is what the perfect tense of Hebrews 10:10 says!! Or as a brother I shared this with essentially said, we were saved, are now saved and will continue

to remain saved until you “obtain as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:9.


Southern Baptist, Tom Schreiner, wrote, in his Commentary on Hebrews, pp34-35:

So again in Hebrews, the author says in 10.10, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and it is through “the blood of the covenant” (10.29). Sanctification is a completed reality. It’s a done deal. And yet the readers (including us) are to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12.14). We also must recognize that we are not yet completely sanctified, as we have the command to “strive… for the holiness” if we want to see the Lord. We are perfected once and for all (10.14), and yet we are to strive for perfection (6.1)


It could appear to be a bit confusing, but it seems to be saying something like this: because Christ would die on the cross, and rise from the grave three days later, God had prepared a little book and wrote on the cover: The Book of Life in which he would write the names of the saved. Cf. Matthew 25:34; Revelation 13:8; 17:8. In the introduction, God says: “I will write the names of all future believers in this book as they come to saving faith. The single sacrifice my Son has made has already been sufficient to perfect and sanctify those who come to saving faith – that is, they will be set apart from the world at the moment of their conversion – but the new life in Christ of those converts will be one of continuing sanctification as they keep on drawing near to My throne of grace when they sin, as they surely will, until one day they see My face - perfect and sanctified completely.”


I participated in a blog discussion on this 10:10 vs 10:14 thing, and Spencer replied:

David. Cockerill says, “The first may put emphasis on the privilege of access to God; the latter, on consecration to God through the removal of sin” (Hebrews, 451–452). DeSilva says something similar when he says that we are neither profane nor polluted, but cleansed and can come before God. “The sins that one has committed against God have defiled the conscience, which cannot now come into the presence of the holy God, before whom nothing unclean (i.e., defiled or ‘unwhole’) survives” (201).

Jesus’ sacrifice made us whole (or “perfect”) so that we can come into God’s presence, but we are not yet in the final consummated state (the new creation).

Something similar can be seen in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Paul refers to the Corinthians as sanctified (1 Cor 1.2) and as saints (2 Cor 1.1), yet he has a lot of trouble with them! They are definitively sanctified, that is, just as Christ is holy, God sees them and declares them as holy. But they are certainly not completely virtuous people. There is a both-and. A now and not yet.


Hebrews 12:14, Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.


And 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.


Also 1 Peter 1:1-2: To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.


And 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.


Wow! There can be no doubt that we need God the Holy Spirit to help keep us sanctified through the blood of Christ, and what is also required is our ongoing obedience to the Spirit’s word (Scripture), and our confession of sin when we do not obey as we should.


But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his

Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:7-10.


So we need regularly to draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace, as we strive to walk in the light by obeying Christ’s teachings as set forth in the New Testament Scriptures. No help from Christ and the Holy Spirit can change the fact that we always need to obey the teachings of the New Testament.


We were sanctified at conversion, God keeps us sanctified as we live by an obedient faith, and He will perfect us and sanctify us completely so that we will one day see Him.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6


We can’t reach heaven without our own effort, and we can’t get there without God’s help!! And if Jesus had not

offered that single sacrifice, no effort by anybody – human or divine – could get us access to God in heaven.


This may all  seem too complicated to some, but I believe it is always helpful to ask “why” God says something and “how” it actually works! This is one way to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour  Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” 2 Peter 3:18.  Amen indeed. Compare

Ephesians 1:15-20.


How privileged that we can begin to fathom the mind and the workings of God. Romans 11:33-36. It takes effort.


David Hunter


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