To this point in Hebrews we have seen that the sacrificial system of the Law was meant to point the worshipers in the direction of Christ. It was instituted to create an awareness that sins were something that had to be dealt with because God is holy and just. We’ve seen that Christ is our perfect High Priest who offered up himself as a spotless sacrifice for sin in the Heavenly places, satisfying the wrath of God for those who would accept His gift. Now the writer of Hebrews turns our attention to what is going on in the minds of the worshipers, and how we can be confident that Christ’s sacrifice was acceptable to God.
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
The earthly Priesthood and Law could never perfect the worshiper’s conscience because it was only a pattern of what was in Heaven. If those offerings had been able to perfect them, then why keep offering day after day, year after year? In Leviticus 16:34 God tells the people through Moses, on the very first observance of the Day of Atonement, that the day shall be an everlasting ordinance for them to come together once a year and offer sacrifices for all the sins of Israel. Each year all the people were reminded of their sin; past, present, and future. Though it was instituted by God, the blood of animals was not the sacrifice that He required. God wants our sacrifice to be our will.
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
The quote above is taken from Psalm 40:6-8. Looking at the verses in context reveals even more what the author is conveying here. Christ’s offering was to do God’s will, and do it perfectly. Christ’s will was and is the Father’s will. It is by Christ’s offering that we have been sanctified and made righteous before God. Under the Law priest’s offered sacrifices each day for atonement, but Christ offered himself once for all those who believe in Him, and sat down next to the Father in Heaven. Notice the contrasting word groupings in verse 11 by the priests and in verses 12-14 by Christ. They offer repeatedly – He offered once. They stand daily – He sits waiting. By ‘sitting’ He indicates that the work was done. Christ’s sacrifice of body and mind was enough to satisfy God’s wrath for sin and judgment permanently.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The author quotes again from Jeremiah 31 (see chapter 8) showing us the fulfillment of prophecy through the giving of the Holy Spirit. We have been given the Holy Spirit to be reassured of our salvation in Christ, who gives us access to God through Christ. There is no more need for sacrifice but only worshiping in faith, knowing that God will follow through. As in previous chapters, the writer exhorts us to encourage one another with the promises of God. Just as the Godhead is a community (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), we were made to be in community with each other; pushing one another to grow in God’s word and be sanctified.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 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? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Continuing from verse 25, in verse 26 the author drives home the point that if we have confessed Christ then we should be seeking out sanctification and community with others. The writer explains that if, after we have confessed, that we continue on in our previous ways and refuse to submit ourselves to Christ, we will endure God’s judgement. This is a warning as much as it is a cry to be on alert. As we know, our previous ways were against the Law (noted in verse 28) and therefore deserving of death. Now, if we have claimed association with Christ but willfully and openly disregard what He has done, there is no hope left. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. How much easier it would be if hell was merely a separation from God…
The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him. – Ezra 8:22
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Though this was written to persecuted Christians in the first century, it holds true for us today. Do you remember what your walk with Christ was like in the early days of your salvation? Continue on in your walk with the faith you had at first, believing that Christ was sufficient and moving forward in faith, knowing that He will return soon, and telling others of this great gift. Faith is a continual work in our lives. It is the foundation of salvation and what keeps us persevering.
Principles and Applications Questions:
- Christ’s will is the Father’s will. Does my will line up with the Father’s will for my life?
- Christ’s sacrifice was enough to satisfy God’s wrath for sin and judgment permanently. Am I still trying to earn grace?
- Access to God comes through Christ by the Holy Spirit within us. How am I encouraging others with the knowledge of Christ?
- Christ’s work of atonement must be acknowledged and applied. Have I actually applied His work of cleansing to my consciousness for my past sins?
- How do I daily remember my faith in Christ? What can I do to remember?