This is the final subsection of the expository unit that began at 7:1, dealing with the Melchizedekian priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The occasion or circumstances which made necessary this theme was the temptation these Hebrew believers were experiencing from the Jews to turn from Christianity back to Judaism, back to the old testament sacrificial system.
In order to discourage these believers from turning away from Christ, our author has developed this magnificent theme of Christ's priesthood. In chapter 7 he argued for the superiority of Christ as a priest after the order of Melchizedek over the Levitical priest. In 8:1 through 10:18 he argued the superiority of Christ's priestly ministry, which is based on a superior covenant.
What we have in 10:1-18 is, in effect, the summation, the climax of this theme. This is a repetition of and climax of what we have already studied, so we'll be able to move through these 18 verses quickly. There is very little in these 18 verses that we have not already dealt with in some length in an earlier portion of this letter.
This section on Christ's priesthood has been deep, technical, and by no means easy to grasp, and I'm sure many of you will be relieved to finish this section. It has been difficult for me, both to understand and to teach, but it has also been a blessing and an encouragement to me. I hope you also have received some spiritual benefit from this section.
These concluding 18 verses can be divided into four parts:
1. Verses 1-4 show us the inadequacy of the Levitical sacrificial system.
2. Verses 5-10 show us the perfect sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Verses 11-13 contrast the Levitical sacrifice and the sacrifice of Christ.
4. Verses 14-18 show the spiritual blessings which we receive as a result of Christ's sacrifice.
Hebrews 10:1-4 (NKJV) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
1. Again, our author shows the inadequacy of the Levitical sacrifice.
The law is a shadow. The coming of Christ cast its shadow in the Old Testament. The purpose of the law of Moses is to give us a foreshadowing, a pre-figurement of the person and work of Christ. The old sacrifices were a shadow, never substance. Shadows aren't enough. You can't live in the shadow of a house; you need a house.
Notice what he says in verse 1, the law is a "shadow of the good things to come" - the word "come" is from the Greek word mello which means: (in the infinitive) "to be about to", and "be on the point of" - see Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, New Englishman's Greek Concordance and Harper's Analytical Greek Lexicon.
Most people reading the New Testament violate the basic hermeneutical principle of audience relevance, which seeks to discover what the original readers understood a passage to mean. The "good things", which refers to the full consummation of the New Covenant, were "about to" come. They were "about to come" in the first century, just five years after the writing of this book. What was future to them is 2000 year old history to us.
Hebrews 10:1 (NKJV) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
The word "image" is the Greek word eikon, which means: "an exact replica". The law was only a shadow, not an exact replica. The word "perfect" is from the Greek word teleioo, which means: "to bring to a state of completeness". This is referring to a perfect standing before God.
Hebrews 10:2 (NKJV) For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.
The authors rhetorical question demands a positive answer. Yes, they would have stopped if they perfected the worshiper. The words "once purified" give us the same idea as perfect in verse 1 and means: "made right with God."
If the old testament worshipers had been purified, they "would have had no more consciousness of sins" - it is the conscience or knowledge of guilt which places one under the judgment of God.
Hebrews 9:13-14 (NKJV) For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
At no point did they ever feel that the price of sin had finally been paid. If they had they would not have offered another sacrifice. After all, you don't keep on paying monthly installments when the loan on your car has been completely paid off.
Repetition conflicts with finality, an action that is repeated thereby shows itself to be inconclusive. Take marriage for example, Cathy and I have only been married once! I know a couple that married each other twice. They did this because their first marriage was ineffective. They were married an a boat and the state did not recognize the marriage, so they had to do it over.
Hebrews 10:3 (NKJV) But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
All that the sacrifices did was to drum into their brains every day that their sin was not removed. It was only temporarily covered, far from erasing sin, they only underlined it:
Hebrews 10:4 (NKJV) For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
The words "not possible"are strong ones. The words "take away" are from the Greek word aphaireo, it is used of a literal taking off, as of Peter's cutting off the ear of the high priest's slave in Luke 22:50. It signifies the complete removal of sin.
Animal blood cannot atone for man's sin. Only man, who is a rational, volitional, articulate, and responsible being, can serve as a proper equivalent and substitute for man. What, then, was the purpose of those sacrifices? They were a shadow pointing to Jesus Christ who would come and atone for sin. They revealed to the people of Israel the righteousness and grace of God. Righteousness in that God said, "The wages of sin is death." Sin must be punished. And grace in that God would provide a substitute.
How much did Israel understand of Jesus Christ? I believe much more than we give them credit for. Verses 1-4 show us again the inadequacy of the Old Testament sacrifices. They were only pictures. When I'm away from home, I carry a picture of Cathy and my girls. I find comfort in looking at it. But it is quite inadequate , for it is not my wife or family, but only a picture of them. I can't talk to it, I can't get it to cook or clean. I can't laugh together with it or receive companionship from it. It is an accurate representation of the real thing, but it is also a far cry from it. So, the Old Testament sacrifices could never do what Christ can, they only picture him.
2. In verses 5-10 we see the perfect and complete adequate sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Hebrews 10:5-7 (NKJV) Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. 7 Then I said, 'Behold, I have come; In the volume of the book it is written of Me; To do Your will, O God.'"
What Old Testament sacrifices couldn't do, Christ did. He proves this by appealing to:
Psalms 40:6-8 (NKJV) Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. 7 Then I said, "Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8 I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart."
This Psalm is not quoted elsewhere in the New Testament. If you compare verses 5-7 of Hebrews 10 with Psalm 40, you will see that there is a verbal difference. The Hebrew of Psalm 40 reads, "Ears hast thou digged for me" whereas the text in Hebrews reads, "a body You have prepared for Me." This has caused many people problems. They say our author misquotes Scripture. This is not so! What we have here is the author of Hebrews following the LXX version which gives us an interpretive translation. The Greek translator regarded the Hebrew of digging or hollowing out of the ears as a part of the total work of fashioning the total body. Our author is giving a free translation or interpreting the meaning of Psalm 40.
David, in Psalm 40, has just been delivered from some sort of evil, possibly even the jaws of death itself. He then responds, "How can I show my gratitude to God. What can I do to demonstrate my love and trust in Him who has delivered me from these circumstances? Should I offer sacrifices? No! God doesn't want sacrifices, He wants submission.
In 1 Sam we see very similar words in the mouth of Samuel:
1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV) Then Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
Obeying the voice of the Lord is submission. Submission is better than sacrifice. And rebellion is the opposite of submission:
1 Samuel 15:23 (NKJV) For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king."
David realized that what God really wanted was his submission, heart motivated obedience. The author of Hebrews seems to be saying that this attitude of submission, which was manifest in David's life, is ultimately fulfilled in the person of Christ.
David, in his own historical circumstances, desired to show his gratitude to God by his submission. The author of Hebrews says that that kind of submission is ultimately and perfectly consummated in the incarnation and atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ:
This Psalm is Messianic, speaking ultimately of our Lord Jesus Christ. What God really desires is submission to his will. What did God want from Adam? Submission. That's why the commandment not to eat. Adam rebelled. God received this submission only from his Son. Only Jesus Christ perfectly submitted to the Father and was thus qualified to offer himself as a sacrifice.
Philippians 2:8 (NKJV) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
The Old Testament sacrifices were only good when offered in submission to God, looking forward in faith to the true sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Genesis 4:3-5 (NKJV) And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
Why was Able's offering acceptable, and the offering of Cain unacceptable? The writer of Hebrews tells us:
Hebrews 11:4 (NKJV) By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
Able's offering was in faith, apart from this they were an abomination to God.
The prophets of the Old Testament constantly referred to the fact that if sacrifices were offered up without a corresponding attitude of faith, then they are an abomination in the eyes of God:
Isaiah 1:11 (NKJV) "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats.
Hosea 6:6 (NKJV) For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Amos 5:21 (NKJV) "I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.
It's not sacrifice that's important, it's the heart that counts.
Application to us today: we so often become involved and preoccupied with cranking out Christian sacrifices - giving, serving, church attendance, Bible study and prayer - while we live lives of disobedience. We think God is pleased with our mindless rituals. God wants our submission, not our sacrifices.
The obedience of the Son, which was first seen in the incarnation and ultimately on Calvary, has accomplished what the Levitical sacrifices never could, the final and absolute removal of the guilt of sin.
Notice the implications of Christ's obedience to the Father given us in:
Hebrews 10:8-10 (NKJV) Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
In verse 9a we see the submission of the Son, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." Then in the second half of the verse he says, "He takes away the first that He may establish the second." - The "first" refers to the old covenant and its sacrificial system. The words "takes away" are from the Greek word anaireo, which is used sometimes in the sense of taking away by killing, that is, murdering, and this shows that it is a strong word. It points to the total abolition of the old testament sacrifice. Our text goes on to say, "that He may establish the second." - this is referring to the New Covenant. We saw this same idea in:
Hebrews 8:13 (NKJV) In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Notice that the text says, "....is becoming obsolete .. ready to vanish away." Remember this is written to the first century Hebrew believers. As of 65 AD, the Old Covenant had not yet become obsolete, but it was about to. The writer here says that the old covenant was "ready to vanish away". Not many years later, it did, in the destruction of Jerusalem.
Hebrews 10:10 (NKJV) By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
The words here, "we have been sanctified", are in the Greek text a perfect participle and a finite verb showing in the strongest way the permanent and continuous state into which the believer is brought and in which he lives. The author of Hebrews uses "sanctified", which is the Greek word hagiazo, in the Pauline sense of justified. The word means: "to set apart for God."
Believers, when the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself up wholly to the will of God, we were regarded as involved in this act. Jesus Christ is our representative, he acted on our behalf. He died for us.
The "once for all" tells us that his offering is absolutely adequate and absolutely final.
1. The old testament sacrifices were inadequate.
2. Christ's sacrifice was perfect and final.
3. Verses 11-13 contrast between the Levitical sacrifice and Christ sacrifice.
Hebrews 10:11-12 (NKJV) And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,
The old covenant priest continually offer an inadequate sacrifice. "But" Christ offered one sacrifice for sins forever. One new point is added here. The Levitical priest stand, but Christ is seated, signifying a completed work. There were no chairs in the tabernacle, their work was never done. A seated priest is a guarantee of a finished work and an accepted sacrifice.
Being seated at God's right hand is exaltation. Christ is not inactive, he is our intercessor. It is His work of atonement that is completed.
Hebrews 10:13 (NKJV) from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
This quote is from:
Psalms 110:1 (NKJV) The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."
The phrase "enemies your footstool" describes an oriental military practice; a victorious king would place his feet on the neck of a defeated king. Who are these enemies that Christ has made his footstool? It was Old Covenant Judaism that was Christ's enemy. Christ calls Judaism the synagogue of Satan:
Revelation 3:9 (NKJV) "Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie; indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
The Jews were the ones who persecuted and tried to wipe out Christianity. They were Christ's enemies.
4. Verses 14-18 show us the blessings which come to us as a result of Christ's work:
Hebrews 10:14 (NKJV) For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
The Greek word for "perfected" is teleioo, it means: "to bring to a state of completion. What the law couldn't do, Christ did. The Greek word for "sanctified" is hagiaze, which means: "to be set apart for God, declared righteous." Believers, all believers have been made right with God forever! He didn't perfect us until we sinned next. He didn't bring us into access with God until we blew it and deserved to get kicked out. There is no way a believer can lose that forever forgiveness. This is eternal security.
Roman Catholics hold a false view of justification. I share this with you because I think many church goers hold a similar view. Roman Catholic theology teaches that the first plank of justification is found in the sacrament of baptism. By water baptism justifying grace is infused into the human soul. A baptized person remains in a state of grace until or unless that person commits a mortal sin. A mortal sin is called mortal because it kills or destroys saving grace. A person who commits a mortal sin is in need of being justified again. The new justification comes through the sacrament of penance. The sacrament of penance has several parts to it; confession, contrition, priestly absolution, and works of satisfaction. The penitent may be required to say so many "Hail Marys" or "Our Fathers" or other ritual prayers. At times more rigorous and demanding penalties are required. These are the works of satisfaction. They "satisfy" the demand of God and make it fitting for God to restore justification to the penitent.
Martin Luther attacked the sacrament of penance at the point of works of satisfaction. Luther argued that the total satisfaction offered for our sins was performed by Christ. No person can add to that satisfaction. Justification is offered freely to all who embrace Christ by faith.
Sadly, many Protestants do not feel an assurance of forgiveness for their sins. We harbor a lingering, nagging feeling that somehow the atonement of Jesus is not enough to cover our sins. Grace is something we cannot quite grasp. We feel a need to atone for our own sins. We think that we must somehow make up for our guilt. Many believers base their assurance on their performance and not on the finished work of Christ.
When God forgives a person, that person is forgiven whether they feel the forgiveness or not. Forgiveness is objective, feelings of forgiveness are subjective. The sensuous Christian lives by his feelings. The spiritual Christian lives by the Word of God, which declares that we are forgiven when we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible tells us that when God forgives us, He removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west:
Psalms 103:10-12 (NKJV) He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
The author of Hebrews says the Holy spirit witnessed to this truth through Jeremiah:
Hebrews 10:15-17 (NKJV) But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them," 17 then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
What does it mean when God says, "I will remember their sins no more"? Does God forget? Does the Almighty, Omniscient, Immutable God suddenly have a lapse in His memory? NO! God is very much aware of every sin I have ever committed. The forgetting of God is a relational forgetting. That is, He remembers it no more against me. When God forgives me of my sin, He doesn't hold it against me. He bears no grudges. He harbors no lingering hostility. We are perfected forever!
Compare these two verses:
Hebrews 10:3 (NKJV) But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
Hebrews 10:17 (NKJV) then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
The Greek word for "remember" is anamnesis, [an-am'-nay-sis] it is only used five times in the New Testament. Three of them are in reference to the Lord's Supper. The all sufficient sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ has transformed anamnesis from a remembrance of guilt, to a remembrance of grace. As we partake of the Lord's Supper, we remember Christ and his sacrifice on our behalf, and we are reminded that God no longer remembers our sins.
Hebrews 10:18 (NKJV) Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
The final statement of verse 18 is both a consolation and a warning. As a consolation, it reiterates the sufficiency of the cross. As a potential warning, it suggests that there is nowhere else to turn if one renounces this sacrifice.
Believers, I hope you understand the complete sufficiency of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that our assurance is based solely on Christ's works, not anything we do. The blessings of the New Covenant are ours, apart from works or penance, solely by faith:
Hebrews 10:14 (NKJV) For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
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