Q&A: Hebrews 10:14

I received this question in the combox and I think it’s a fine example where some (not necessarily the commenter) can become confused when reading a passage where it clearly uses sanctification in the past tense. I’ll quote the comment in its entirety and hopefully, you will find this discussion useful.

Here’s the Q:

Okay, well here’s a curve ball that’s been keeping me awake at night thinking about how this fits into the plan of justification / sanctification. It’s a solitary verse from Hebrews, but I am beginning to think it has huge implications.

Hebrews 10:14: For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.

I’m not sure what thoughts others have on this , but is it possible that this is an affirmation of predestination, that we are in fact sanctified in that we are elect.

A: First of all, yes, it is an affirmation of predestination.

Secondly, yes we are sanctified, past tense, due to election unto salvation. However…you knew that was coming didn’t you?

Here is where some can become confused in their understanding of sanctification and justification.

I recently posted an article showing the two ways sanctification is used in Scripture. Those two ways are definitive sanctification and ethical, or moral, sanctification. And, before addressing the predestination aspect of this passage, that needs to be understood, and here’s why.

Only those elected unto salvation and regenerated in time are set apart for service unto God as His peculiar people and holy nation (definitive sanctification) and they are also the only ones who will ever actually be made holy (ethical sanctification). Of course, none of this would take place without predestinating us from before the foundation of the world! Ephesians 1:4.

So, this being the testimony of Scripture, yes, Hebrews 10:14 absolutely affirms predestination of the elect unto salvation, no question.

Secondly, this passage also affirms that the same are being sanctified. I know, the KJV translation of “them that are sanctified” is misleading in the English because the word used here has as its root the Greek word hagiazō, and it is in the present tense, not the past tense.

In other words, the present tense of the word sanctified here tells us it refers to those being sanctified, ethical sanctification, and is an ongoing process and not a once-for-all definitive act as in justification.

This is why it is so important to understand the difference between definitive and ethical sanctification. It is truly helpful when a serious student of Scripture can differentiate and recognize in Scripture between the facts that we have been sanctified (made holy-set apart) and that we are being sanctified, present tense, as here in Hebrews 10:14.

It will always result in serious error to view sanctification spoken of in the past tense as some sort of ‘positional sanctification’ in the ethical-moral sense. That is the error most prominent in New Calvinism today, and it is heresy. To view it that way, is to confuse justification with sanctification and violate the very basic definition and meaning of ethical sanctification which is to actually make – not declare – the justified sinner, righteous!

I trust, and do pray, that this has been helpful. God bless.