(T)hen He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews is speaking of the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament in which priests made sin offerings to God.
Dick’s commentary is worth some examination:
If the Church would believe and follow these verses would put the confessional “Out of business”. The truth is that once you accept Jesus as you payment for your sins; your sins are not put to your account. you account has been paid in full. Read it “Once and for all”. Which guarantees you eternal destiny.
Is it appropriate for Christian believers to speak of matters of sin and salvation in terms of payments, accounts, and guarantees? The early Church struggled mightily with this. People professed faith in Christ. But some, when confronted with torture and death, rescinded their Christian witness. Did Baptism mean nothing? A lot of people asked that question.
Over the centuries, Christians have committed grave sins: gossip, sexual abuse, adultery, murder. Is it possible for a Christian to commit such sins, yet still acknowledge Jesus and his priestly act of sacrifice on the cross?
Critics of the Christian practice of confession and the Rite of Penance miss something important, I think. While sometimes Penance is treated as a juridical act, the truth is that at its core it is a personal encounter between a believer and God (cf. John 20:19-23). Many Christians testify to the healthful benefits of confession. There has been a long recognition, going back to the 3rd century at least, of the importance of this kind of honest encounter with the Lord.
I think our friend Dick hasn’t quite quoted accurately. “Once for all” isn’t exactly the same as the idiom, “Once and for all.” Acknowledging Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t mean that every possible human sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel is meaningless.
As for confessing sins, I don’t see the equivalance between that practice and the Israelite burning of bulls, goats, birds, or fine flour. Confession is certainly a sacrifice in some sense: time, pride, embarrassment. But it’s hardly obrogated by this passage from Hebrews.
Open thread for commentary; have at it.