#43 ONCE FOR ALL

Many Christians seem uncertain about assurance of salvation, asking questions like: Is salvation permanent or can it be lost? Can a person be saved today, but lost tomorrow?

If we say that it is not possible to have assurance of salvation, then we are in some way, to some extent, making salvation depend on our human actions, and not on the death of Jesus Christ.

The question comes down to this: can my sin today undo the death of Christ? Can my failure to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength today disqualify me from the salvation through the death of Christ that was planned by God before the world began?

In 1Peter 3:18 Peter wrote:For Christ died for sins once for all ...’

There are four other verses where the saving work of Christ is described as ‘once’ or ‘once for all’ –

Romans 6:10: ‘The death he died, he died to sin once for all ...’

Hebrews 9:12: ‘... he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.’

Hebrews 9:28: ‘So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people ...’

Hebrews 10:10: ‘... we have been made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Christ once for all.’

Two words are used to teach us that the death of Christ for our sin occurred only once: the simple word for ‘once’ (hapax), in 1Peter 3:18 and Hebrews 9:28, and an intensified form of the word (ephapax) in the other verses. This once-for-all-ness is further emphasised by the use of the Aorist Tense in each of the verbs referring to the death of Christ in these verses: it indicates that the death of Christ was a decisive, one-of-a-kind death. It does not need to be repeated. It does not need to be supplemented or supported by additional subsequent deaths. It is one death effective for all time. It is effective not only for sins already committed but also for sins as yet not committed.

This is in clear contrast to the sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament. For example

The sacrifices that were offered daily, weekly and monthly (Numbers 28:1-15).

The personal sacrifices offered whenever forgiveness of sin was sought (Leviticus 1 – 7).

The personal sacrifices offered when ritual uncleanness was reversed (Leviticus 12; 14:1-32; 15).

The annual sacrifices for sin on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

In contrast to all of these, Jesus died for sin once for all time, and he entered the presence of God to make atonement once for all time.

The implication of this ‘once for all’ is powerful:

Unlike the sacrifices of the old covenant, the sacrifice of Christ is permanent and comprehensive in its effect. The Levitical sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again. They applied only to sin already committed. The forgiveness of sin, the reconciliation with God, didn’t last. There would always be another sin or another ritual uncleanness requiring yet another sacrifice. The human conscience could never be at rest: there was always the awareness of sin and of guilt that had not been forgiven, and of more sin and guilt that would built up every moment. [Read Hebrews 9:1 – 10:18]

But the forgiveness and reconciliation accomplished by the one sacrifice of Christ are permanent and complete. What the blood of animals could not do, even though offered again and again, Christ did, once for all, by this one sacrifice.

All of those repetitive sacrifices were temporary predictive symbols of Jesus’ one permanently effective and powerful death. They were mere shadows cast by the one final and ultimate reality of his death. By this one death total permanent forgiveness of sin is accomplished. Once for all.

As Paul put it - ‘in him we have ... the forgiveness of sins’ [Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14]. Because of this death forgiveness is the present and permanent possession of those who have been united to Christ by faith.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018