Summary: Some of the ways in which the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was infinitely better than those of the Old Covenenant
A better sacrifice! Part 1
Chapters 9 & 10 of Hebrews give us a unique window on Calvary contrasting the death of Jesus on the cross with the OT sacrifices. Uniquely, as Andrew Murray put it:
The cross is Christ’s highest glory. The glory which He received from the Father was entirely owing to his having humbled himself to the death of the cross. "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him!"
Today I want us to begin to look at some of the glorious truths about Christ’s sacrifice that these two chapters teach us. But there is so much more to understand in these chapters, so please study them prayerfully for yourself. Make their truths your own. We need to understand them because they are central to the Gospel and are, sadly, under fresh attack today.
When we use the word sacrifice today we generally mean giving up something to gain something later. So parents make sacrifices for their children – for example they may give up a new car or holiday to pay for something that the child needs. In the Bible, however, it means giving something to God. In most cases an animal was given to God and this usually involved killing the animal. This all seems very strange and bloodthirsty to us today, but the basic idea was common to virtually all historical cultures throughout history.
The first sacrifice we read of in the Bible was that offered by Abel, though there is a hint of an earlier sacrifice when, after the fall, God clothed Adam and Eve with clothes made from animal skins – Gen 3:21. In some way God obviously told Adam and Eve that the death of a substitute was needed to cover their sin and they taught this to their children. (DV we’ll come back to this in chapters 11 and 12.) These animal sacrifices were intended to show the Israelites that God took their sin seriously and that dealing with it was costly. They also pictured the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God at Calvary.
A necessary sacrifice
Many theologians think that all of this emphasis on blood and sacrifice is an anomaly from an earlier, bloodthirsty age. Here are two quotes that I came across:
The mission and purpose of Jesus’ life and ministry, was, first, to model for humankind the fullness of mercy and forgiveness that God offers to us sinners and, second, to model for us the perfection of love that God is and that those who accept God’s forgiveness are invited, by God’s grace, to become. Thus it is not Jesus’ death that can save us but his life!
I don’t think we need a theory of atonement at all; I don’t think we need folks hanging on crosses and blood dripping and weird stuff.”
The cover story for a 2004, issue of Time magazine was “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?” Sadly but not surprisingly, the article gave no clear answer. According to it, the Bible does not hold the answer as to why Jesus died. They looked at various views of the atonement found through church history, passing quickly over the “theory” of substitutionary atonement, which the article claimed, was invented by Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1098.
One response said: Such nonsense paraded as biblical scholarship! Indeed, “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4). Why did Jesus die? The Bible answers that with five simple words: “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3)! Christ was “made sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus explained very clearly why He came: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). The proud Bible “scholars” quoted by Time magazine do not want to acknowledge that they are sinners of such terrible calibre that they cannot be saved apart from the death and blood of the very Son of God or that God is so holy that He would require such a death by His Son. [CHURCH NEWS NOTES, April 04]
That’s spot on! These trendy theologians just don’t understand God’s character, particularly his holiness. There was no other way for God to reconcile His infinite holiness and infinite love. God’s judgement on sinners is quite clear: Eze 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. Or as Paul put it in Romans 6:23 the wages of sin is death. And, of course Ro 3:23 all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That means that, naturally, we are all under God’s death sentence.