For by one sacrifice he [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
Almost everyone wants to improve at something. “Kaizen” is a Japanese word co-opted by business to describe rapid and continuous improvement. It is the idea that we should systematically identify waste and become more efficient and effective in our work. A similar concept is six-sigma quality, which is meant to describe an ongoing dedication to define, measure, evaluate and modify your processes to be extremely efficient and exhibit high quality.
The Bible certainly encourages people to pursue excellence and would agree with these concepts as a way of life. Jesus taught that we should “make every effort to enter into the narrow gate (Luke 13:24)”. Valuing hard work and quality is good—but we would be missing something vital if all we thought God wanted for us was to be a really committed, hard worker. It is also problematic – just like six sigma quality, no one ever achieves that perfect standard.
In the quote at the top, the writer to the Hebrews explains that Jesus has done something decisive: “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” To people who feel like they are on a treadmill with no off button, this is encouragement. We are already perfected by Jesus. You do not need to earn God’s approval.
Now this statement has its own built in objection. If we are “being made holy”, how can we already be perfect? To find the answer, we need to know what Jesus did. Jesus lived a perfect life (Matthew 5:17) and died a sacrificial death (Galatians 3:13), so that those who believe in him can trade their spotty and grease-marked record for His. If we believe in and follow Jesus, God accepts His faithful life in our place. He sees us as completely perfect. It is the most breathtaking trade in the universe—our shame for Jesus’ honor.
In light of this, the last part of the verse takes on a whole new significance. We are no longer running to be counted perfect or good. We have been declared good on the basis of Jesus’ goodness. Instead we run and pursue perfection because we delight to follow the One who is so gracious to us.
If this concept permeates your business and personal life, it changes everything by changing the underlying motivation for success. We do not seek to do well in order to be accepted. You are free to pursue excellence as a thank offering to the God who has already declared you perfect in Christ.