For by a single offering, He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
I recently read the book What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain. It is a fascinating study of what separates the most effective college professors from all the rest in their field. Results of this study are myriad and include a whole list of what separates the great teachers from the good ones, but the author concludes that it all boils down to one thing—the best teachers are the ones who truly believe their students can change. Bain writes,
People can change, and those changes—not just the accumulation of information—represent true learning. More than anything else this central set of beliefs distinguishes the most effective teachers from many of their colleagues.
Imagine! Many of us don’t have to imagine because we have been there—sitting in a classroom day after day where the professor did not believe people had the ability to change or that anything he taught would actually initiate any growth or change in someone’s life. But imagine he expected you to show up every day and do all the reading and all the work anyway. What a poor teacher and a miserable class that would be!
Unfortunately, many of us approach our spiritual lives that way. We go through the motions of reading our Bibles, going to church on Sundays, and being involved in any number of Christian activities throughout the week. We do what we think is expected of us—but we don’t really believe we can actually change. We don’t believe we will ever have victory over the besetting sin in our lives. We don’t ever think we will be able to get away from the snares of addiction to image, and performance, and self. We don’t really think we will ever grow to love God or our spouses or our children more. We are defeated before we start.
The author of Hebrews packs this verse with hope for our struggle and discouragement. Christ’s sacrifice of Himself has the power to change us—because He is changing us. His sacrifice proves to our struggling hearts that our Savior has both the power and the will to change us, to sanctify us, to make us more like Himself.
In His sacrifice, He has perfected His people for all time. This truth does not mean that God’s people are perfect in this life and will not struggle with sin, but that Christ has accomplished for His people a perfect standing in the sight of God. This perfect standing is permanent. It cannot be changed or taken away. Old Testament sacrifices never had the power of permanence—they had the power to make one clean for a time, but one had to come back to the altar again and again and again. Ultimately, those sacrifices pointed to something greater that was to come—the sacrifice of Christ, who has the power to make one perfect for all time! The power of the sacrifice to come to make them perfect was the hope of the Old Testament saints, and the power of the sacrifice that definitively came to make us perfect is our sure hope today.
At the end of this verse, we read that Christ has perfected those who are being sanctified. Not only have we been made perfect in the sight of God once and for all, we are also being made perfect right now. His sacrifice has power not only to affect the past and the future, but the present. Christ’s sacrifice has freed us from the slavery of sin and replaced our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. Christ’s sacrifice has made it possible to love God and others instead of loving ourselves. Christ’s sacrifice has made it possible to change. What great news this is—we are not hopeless in our struggle with sin. Christ’s sacrifice has power—the power to make us what we already are before Him. We can change! He is changing us! It is His very will to change us, to conform us more and more into the image of Himself.
Knowing this, we are encouraged and empowered to work hard in the battle against sin in our own lives. We can fight hard against our besetting sins. We can seek accountability for the way we spend our money and our time. We can move away from relationships that are not good for us. We can seek help for the patterns that entrap us again and again and again. We can make time for the spiritual disciplines in our life! We can fight for holiness and fight for change because we know that it is possible. Christ, in His sacrifice for us, has made it possible. There is hope for us! We can change!