The author of Hebrews writes, ‘—by one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy’ (10:14)
An apparent dichotomy in the Christian life is being highlighted here- on one hand we are called perfect, yet we are reminded that we are imperfect and on the road to being made holy. How do we reconcile these two realities?
The context is that of the Jewish priest offering animal sacrifices for his own sins and for the sins of the people he represents and finding access to God’s presence. But now the perfect priest, Jesus Christ has arrived, who because of his sinless life does not need to offer any sacrifice for himself. Yet as he dies on the cross, his blood shed was sufficient to wipe away the sins of mankind and usher man into God’s presence.
Access to God’s presence is restricted because the sinless God can have no conjunction with the sinful man. It is like fire burning the skin that comes into contact with it. However when a fire resistant suit is put on, the skin is protected from the fire, albeit for a brief period of time. There are different layers for these suits- the outer usually aluminized layer that comes into contact with the fire, the middle layer that keeps heat and moisture out and the inner layer that is often wool and comes into contact with the skin. Christ is like this suit- he being God and having lived a sinless life here on earth makes it possible for him to be in the presence of God without getting burnt, unlike man who will be destroyed in no time if he comes into the raw presence of the holy fiery God. Jesus also was a man like us and having identified with the human race and suffered life here on earth, he can relate to us and help us in our journey, much like the wool caresses the skin while being in the presence of the fire. Jesus’ unique nature and all that he represents is like the middle layer that mediates between the fire and the skin and makes co-existence possible.
Without Christ, it would be impossible for man to come into the presence of God and relate to him. Yet when we put on the suit of Christ by believing in him, God considers us ‘perfect’. We can stand in his presence through Christ and relate to an otherwise unrelatable God. And it is within the sanctity of this relationship that man can find the freedom to grow and mature in his life- to become more holy as he goes through life.
Are we perfect? Far from it! Every day we have the opportunity through circumstances to discern the will of God and mature through them. That is in fact the calling of man and perhaps the only thing that really counts. To what extent has man allowed himself to be transformed into the likeness of God?
He is considered perfect though in reality he is far from it. He is considered perfect and so is enabled to go on a journey of perfection.
- UNLESS THE LORD BUILDS
- THE PILGRIM