Once For All
Once For All
Once, on 7 January 1978, I stood as the bridegroom at the front of Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) Church in London. The bride, Pippa Hislop, walked down the aisle with her father and joined me at the front of the church. We made our vows to each other before God and we were united in marriage. We left the church as ‘Mr and Mrs Gumbel’. It was a ‘once’ event, but it has had huge implications for our lives. It stemmed from our love for each other and we committed ourselves to love one another until the end of our lives.
Almost four years before that, on 16 February 1974, I had encountered Jesus Christ for the first time. A love relationship began, which has utterly transformed my life. It was another ‘once’ event, but the implications and effect of that ‘once’ event are ongoing and all-encompassing. I experienced God’s love for me and committed myself to love him for ever.
In today’s New Testament passage, the writer of Hebrews speaks of the greatest ‘once’ event of all time. It changed the course of history and has the potential to change all of our lives. Jesus has appeared ‘once for all’ (Hebrews 9:26). ‘Christ was sacrificed once’ (v.28). Jesus entered the Most Holy Place ‘once for all by his own blood’ (v.12). ‘We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (10:10). This ‘once’ event stemmed from God’s great love for us and has huge implications for your life and mine.
God will guard and protect youPsalm 121:1-8
Where is the first place you look when you are in trouble or don’t know what to do? Do you look to friends, family or the medical profession? There is nothing wrong in looking for help in all these directions. But the first place the psalmist looks is upwards.
Regret looks back. Fear looks around. Worry looks in. Faith looks up.
The psalmist looks up, ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?’ (v.1). Your help, strength and protection come from the maker of the universe: ‘My strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains’ (v.2, MSG). ‘He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber’ (v.3).
This beautiful psalm speaks of the Lord’s love for you and his protection over your life.
‘God’s your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you...
God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always’ (vv.5–8, MSG).
I have sometimes used this psalm as a prayer for our family or friends who are facing difficulties in their lives.
The promise of this psalm is that the Lord will protect you from all ultimate harm. The psalmist could not have known that this is made possible through the ‘once for all’ sacrifice of Jesus, which means that one day he will come ‘to bring salvation for those who are waiting for him’ (Hebrews 9:28).
Lord, thank you that you watch over me day and night. Thank you that you watch over my coming and going both now and for evermore.
Jesus sacrificed himself for youHebrews 9:16-28
Do you realise how much God loves you? Do you know that Jesus shed his blood so that you could receive total forgiveness? Do you understand that he has already paid the price for every sin you have committed in the past and every sin you will ever commit in the future?
Why was the death of Jesus necessary? The author points out that, both in the case of a will and a covenant (the same Greek word is used for both), they do not come into effect without a death taking place. The death leads to an inheritance for others.
‘The first covenant was not put into effect without blood’ (v.18). He goes on to describe in detail ‘the blood of the [old] covenant’ and concludes that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’ (vv.19–22).
The writer then makes three statements contrasting the sacrifice of Jesus with the inferior sacrifices under the law:
- Jesus was dealing with the real thing
‘For Christ didn’t enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins’ (v.24, MSG).
- Jesus’ sacrifice was ‘once, for all’
‘Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year’ (v.25). Rather, ‘Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever’ (vv.27–28, MSG).
- Jesus shed his own blood
Jesus did not offer ‘blood that is not his own’ (v.25). Unlike the High Priest it was his own blood that was shed (v.12).
No further sacrifice is now required: ‘These animal sacrifices aren’t needed anymore, having served their purpose’ (v.23, MSG). As the Book of Common Prayer puts it, the once for all sacrifice of Jesus was ‘a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world’. As Jesus cried out on the cross, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30).
When Jesus comes again, it will not be ‘to bear sin’ but rather, ‘to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him’ (Hebrews 9:28).
Thank you, Lord, for Jesus. Thank you for his once for all sacrifice for me so that I might receive total forgiveness. Help me to remember today that ‘it is finished’.
Make a clean break!Ezekiel 17:1-18:32
Although Jesus’ death for us was a ‘once’ event, God, in his love, was preparing his people for that event for hundreds of years. He was teaching them about the serious consequences of sin and pointing ahead to a Saviour.
God’s word to his people was through an allegory and parable (17:1). The immediate context of the allegory was the ‘great eagle’ (v.3) of Babylon, taking King Jehoiakim from Judah to Babylon in 597 BC, but its application is far wider.
There are two types of shoots, two types of vines and two types of kingdom. There is the kingdom of this world – human-made, apparently very strong, using all the best resources, appearing to flourish, but that will ultimately shrivel and die and be completely useless. On the other hand, there is the kingdom of God, which, from a very small beginning, against all the odds, will flourish and bear permanent fruit (see Matthew 13:31–32 and Revelation 22).
As we read this passage through the lens of Jesus, we see hints of his ‘once for all’ sacrifice for sin. The ‘shoot’ (Ezekiel 17:22) is the language that the prophet Isaiah uses in what is clearly a messianic passage, foretelling the coming of Jesus (Isaiah 53:2). This is the one who was pierced for our transgressions (v.5) upon whom the Lord laid the iniquity of us all (v.6). He is the one who made the ‘once for all’ sacrifice of himself for our sins.
Ezekiel goes on to say, ‘You die for your own sin, not another’s’ (Ezekiel 18:4, MSG). ‘The soul who sins is the one who will die’ (v.20). Earlier, Ezekiel spoke of corporate responsibility (17:12). Now he speaks of individual responsibility. We will all have to take responsibility for our own lives. You will not be judged for your parents’ or your children’s sins (18:20), but for your own sins.
God loves everyone. He does not want anyone to fall under his judgment: ‘“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?” declares the Sovereign Lord. “Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”’ (v.23).
He concludes this passage, ‘I’ll judge each of you according to the way you live. So turn around! Turn your backs on your rebellious living so that sin won’t drag you down. Clean house… Get a new heart! Get a new spirit!’ (vv.30–31, MSG). The passage then finishes with a final reminder of how that is possible – ‘Repent and live!’ (v.32).
This is the wonderful news. However far you have fallen – whatever mess you’ve made with your life – you can make a clean break with the past. Simply ‘repent’ – turn from the bad ways and turn to Jesus. You receive total forgiveness, a new heart and a new spirit and can enjoy the relationship with God made possible by his once for all sacrifice for your sins.
Lord, thank you that I can ‘repent and live’. Thank you that you promise me a new heart and a new spirit. Help me to make a clean break and to enjoy the relationship with God that you have made possible, by your ‘once-for-all’ sacrifice for my sins.
‘The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.’
I have prayed these verses many times for myself, my family and my friends. They are such comforting and encouraging words.
Verse of the Day
‘The Lord will keep you from all harm –
he will watch over your life’ (Psalm 121:7).
Text from The Book of Common Prayer, the rights in which are vested in the Crown, is reproduced by permission of the Crown's Patentee, Cambridge University Press.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.