Some argue that Calvinism and Hebrews 10:29 are contradictory because Hebrews 10:29 says that someone who has been “sanctified” by “the blood of the covenant” can experience eternal punishment. They argue that this contradicts the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement. However, there is a very reasonable explanation that does not at all contradict Calvinism.
Hebrews 10:29 and Calvinism
How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?Hebrews 10:29
Calvinism’s Answer to Hebrews 10:29
In the immediate context, the author of Hebrews had just argued in verse 14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Because of this, we should assume that it is highly unlikely that the author would immediately contradict this statement in verse 29.
There are two possible answers to the argument against limited atonement that are reasonable:
- The one who was sanctified was actually Christ, not the apostate sinner.
- The word “sanctified” refers to the same idea expressed in 2 Peter 2:1 (“even denying the Master who bought them”), namely, that there are some people who exhibit signs of regeneration for a season, and then demonstrate that they were never truly regenerated.
Regarding the first point, several passages talk about Jesus sanctifying himself through his own sacrifice. These verses demonstrate that it is wholly appropriate to see the one who was sanctified in Hebrews 10:29 as Christ, rather than the apostate sinner.
Regarding the second point, there can be a difference between true, internal sanctification and sanctification in the sense of being separated and dedicated to God in an external sense. Some professing Christians are baptized and serve in the church as if they were truly regenerate, but they eventually apostatize and demonstrate that they were in actuality never truly regenerated. For a similar passage related to this, see Calvinism and 2 Peter 2:1 – “denying the Master”.
Scriptures Concerning Jesus Being Sanctified by His Sacrifice
And for their sake I consecrate myself, [Or, I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart] that they also may be sanctified in truth.John 17:19
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.Hebrews 2:10
8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,Hebrews 5:8-9
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.Hebrews 9:11-12
John Owen on Hebrews 10:29 and Calvinism
The last aggravation of this sin with respect unto the blood of Christ, is the nature, use, and efficacy of it; it is that “wherewith he was sanctified.” It is not real or internal sanctification that is here intended, but it is a separation and dedication unto God; in which sense the word is often used. And all the disputes concerning the total and final apostasy from the faith of them who have been really and internally sanctified, from this place, are altogether vain; though that may be said of a man, in aggravation of his sin, which he professeth concerning himself. But the difficulty of this text is, concerning whom these words are spoken: for they may be referred unto the person that is guilty of the sin insisted on; he counts the blood of the covenant, wherewith he himself was sanctified, an unholy thing. For as at the giving of the law, or the establishing of the covenant at Sinai, the people being sprinkled with the blood of the beasts that were offered in sacrifice, were sanctified, or dedicated unto God in a peculiar manner; so those who by baptism, and confession of faith in the church of Christ, were separated from all others, were peculiarly dedicated to God thereby. And therefore in this case apostates are said to “deny the Lord that bought them,” or vindicated them from their slavery unto the law by his word and truth for a season, 2 Peter 2:1. But the design of the apostle in the context leads plainly to another application of these words. It is Christ himself that is spoken of, who was sanctified and dedicated unto God to be an eternal high priest, by the blood of the covenant which he offered unto God, as I have showed before. The priests of old were dedicated and sanctified unto their office by another, and the sacrifices which he offered for them; they could not sanctify themselves: so were Aaron and his sons sanctified by Moses, antecedently unto their offering any sacrifice themselves. But no outward act of men or angels could unto this purpose pass on the Son of God. He was to be the priest himself, the sacrificer himself, — to dedicate, consecrate, and sanctify himself, by his own sacrifice, in concurrence with the actings of God the Father in his suffering. See John 17:19; Hebrews 2:10, 5:7, 9, 9:11, 12. That precious blood of Christ, wherein or whereby he was sanctified, and dedicated unto God as the eternal high priest of the church, this they esteemed “an unholy thing;” that is, such as would have no such effect as to consecrate him unto God and his office.1
- John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 6:545-46.