Summary: The fourth in a series of messages about the complete sufficiency of the Gospel.

Picture the scene. An Israelite camp in the desert, several thousand years ago. The tabernacle, pitched on top of a hill in the center of the camp. The high priest, running down the hillside shouting that he has found the perfect spotless lamb, which will be sacrificed on behalf of all the people, taking care of their sins for the rest of their lives.

Imagine the excitement! After that one final sacrifice, all the men of Israel gather to begin tearing down the tabernacle. Then they move on with a whole new way of life. No longer do they have to worry about sacrifices to clean up their track record. Instead, they can live guilt free, knowing that a perfect lamb has done away with their sins once and for all.

Of course, this never happened. Instead, what we see is the Israelites having to offer animal sacrifices over and over throughout their history, because no single sacrifice was sufficient to perfectly cleanse them. Hebrews explains clearly: [The law] can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. (Hebrews 10:1--2)

Although we never read of an Old Testament priest finding the perfect lamb, this announcement was, in fact, made. When? Not long before the sacrifice that would initiate the New. Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist declared, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

Today, we have a perfect Lamb in the person of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice rendered the temple ceremonies null and void. There’s no longer any purpose for the tabernacle, the temple, or the daily sacrifices.

Because Jesus Christ’s sacrifice cleansed us once for all, not repeatedly over time, there’s no method or procedure required for us to remain forgiven. We’re invited to depend on the onetime sacrifice as the means to lifelong forgiveness, without any strings attached: "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18 NIV).

The issue concerning forgiveness becomes crystal clear if we understand God’s economy, which hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. To illustrate, let’s travel back in time as an investigative reporter to interview a Jew as he exits the tabernacle.

"Excuse me, Mr. Jew, you seem very relieved compared with the way you looked when you entered the tabernacle just a short time ago. What’s your secret? What makes you feel so much better about the past year of sinning? Did you promise Yahweh that you’d do better this coming year--that you would turn over a new leaf?"

The Jewish man responds, "No, nothing like that took place."

Slightly confused, you press on to discover the truth. "Well, did you carefully name off each sin and ask Yahweh to cover your sins?"

"Certainly not!" the Jewish man exclaims.

"Well, then, what exactly made you feel relief from guilt for all the sins you’ve committed over the past twelve months?"

At this point, any well-educated Jew would give the same response: "What made me feel better? The blood of bulls and goats that covered my past sins, of course! Yahweh has always demanded a blood sacrifice for sins, and now--because of the animal I bought to offer as a sacrifice--my sins are covered!"

This imaginary interview with a Jew outside the tabernacle illustrates God’s economy. It has always been the case that one thing brings forgiveness of sins, namely, blood--nothing else: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22).

If we accept God’s blood-only economy, it revolutionizes our perspective on how we stand before him. The bottom line is that no amount of dialoguing with God about our sins will bring us more forgiveness. No amount of asking God to forgive us will initiate his cleansing in our lives. Instead, blood sacrifice is the only action that results in forgiveness and cleansing. This was true in the Old Testament, and there’s no exception today.

Because there are no more blood sacrifices being made for sins, we must conclude something about the onetime sacrifice of Jesus Christ: either it was or was not sufficient to bring a lifetime of forgiveness and cleansing. If so, then God is satisfied regarding our sins, both now and in eternity. If not, then we are stuck with no biblical way of dealing with God’s wrath toward us.

Unfortunately, right here is where many Christian authors and teachers take a plunge into the realm of creativity, using terms such as positional truth and heavenly bookkeeping. They say we’re forgiven and cleansed "in God’s eyes." But then they claim that Christ’s death does not translate into "once for all" forgiveness in the here and now.

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James Banks

commented on Sep 23, 2011

-----1. Is the preacher a Calvinist ("complete, unconditional forgiveness")? That would be consistent. Is the preacher not? Then there must be a condition, at least once in time, where people do something to take part in saving themselves, that is exactly what Arminianism must affirm. Then, why be offended at people who feel like confession multiple times has something to do with cleansing, when the preacher believes that belief/repentance/perhaps-confession one time helps allow the blood of Christ to be applied to the converting sinner? The issue of God''s grace vs. man''s potential to boast is not the reason to be offended, it must be something else. ------ 2. Why are "forgiveness" and "cleansing" made equivalent? What is the preacher''s support for this equivalence? Is it not possible that forgiveness is one thing and cleansing another? To wit: we are forgiven once and for all, but the ridding of our sins (say, going from sinning every minute to sinning every other minute and so on) in intention, act, and external consequence is obviously not complete! Cleansing is removing all aspects of sin, so that at the end, we don''t sin any more, and in the middle of the process, we probably sin less than at the beginning! Is this not what is meant commonly by "sanctification"? ------ 3. "Do you know any true believers today who say they?ve never sinned?" The apostle John wasn''t necessarily talking about believers who "said they never sinned". "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8) is exactly how the preacher quotes it. Believers have a tendency of believing things explicitly and officially while acting otherwise. Perhaps you act as though you do not sin by removing the speck from your brother''s eye while ignoring the log in your own. Confession reminds you, as you cast about your mind for sins, that you really do have logs! Very practical for the process of not sinning as much or as badly any more. I agree with the preacher with all or at least the better part of my heart that ruminating over lists of sins is bad -- when fruitless -- particularly in that it distracts the believer from enjoying God and enjoying being God''s child and servant. However, if ruminating leads to godly sorrow, the kind that produces repentance, the more the merrier! Literally, merrier, both on earth and in heaven, because repentance makes you happier. ------ 4. Finally, the attitude of this sermon bothered me. It''s very much "us vs. them". I don''t know the circumstances in which it was originally preached, but if you were to use this sermon, or looking in your own similar sermon, consider that the people you are complaining about, saying that they are "no better than Catholics" (whatever that is supposed to imply), *aren''t there to defend themselves*. I think, odds are, they will never get a fair chance to present their views before your congregation, simply because most of your congregation takes your word for it and doesn''t care enough to investigate on their own, and because dissenters from your views probably don''t go to your church or have a chance to talk. So by your tone you are building up prejudices within the church of Christ, feeding division. Forgive me if I misunderstand, perhaps this sermon was and will be given immediately before or after a contrasting one by someone representing a different point of view. If I sound upset, it is not at the theology of this sermon, but my perception that it will be used to reinforce "us"ness by putting down and writing off "them"ness.

Vicky Mathis

commented on May 20, 2015

Mr. Banks, I am a little surprised you have taken this sermon so far out of context. where does it say any saved person does not sin any more, no we do sin and we are still righteous and forgiven with the sanctification, otherwise why did Christ die? Is your spirit alive and righteous with out salvation? when you believe in Christ your spirit becomes perfect and clean before God. The flesh still deals with the flesh and it sins. what is there to misunderstand?

Vicky Mathis

commented on May 20, 2015

well, I didn't read the whole sermon, now I am a bit confused. what I wrote above is what I believe, not sure I agree with what Mr Farley is saying. wow,

Bill Smith

commented on Nov 7, 2012

I''m sorry James, but it seems you have missed the entire point of what Farely is saying. I know these ideas are hard for people to take, and all kinds of defenses come raging up in our minds because centuries old theological ''norms'' are being rethought and corrected. And this should be a good thing, something we embrace, not attack and destroy. Ask God if it is God who is brininging these ideas to the fore through servants of his such as Farley. After all, if it is of God, it will last. If it is of Farely, it will eventually fade away.

Bill Smith

commented on Nov 7, 2012

Also James, you bring up, "what about the process of sanctification?" Well, you are assuming that the ''''process of sanctification'''' is solid unchanging theology, and judging what Farley is saying against that centuries held belief. But what Farley is saying is that if we understand the NT more correctly, then we will see that there is, in fact, no ''''process of sanctification'''' at all. So its a matter of which is more correct? Does it make logical sense, in light of what Farley says, to still hold to a ''''process of sanctification?'''' I agree with Farley that it does not make sense. That aspect of centuries old theology needs a massive overhaul, as does a lot of other theology. And thank God it''s coming.

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