Hebrews 10: 1 – 18
Perfectly Accepted By Our God- Part A
1 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. 5 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.’ ” 8 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. 11 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, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. 15 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.” 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
Before we start to take a long look at this awesome chapter of the book of Hebrews, I would like you to first take a visit to the book of Ephesians chapter 1, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Please notice that it was our Holy God’s will which was always, even from the beginning, that sin would be dealt with through the offering of the body of The Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus, as the perfect sacrifice for the perfecting of those whom He has set apart
As we come to the close of this long section on Christ’s High Priesthood it is now made clear that the death of Jesus on the cross had always been the will and purpose of God. All that had come before had merely foreshadowed it. But in the end that was all that they were, shadows. The reality had come when our Holy Lord Jesus came to do His will, and in accordance with that will He offered Himself on our behalf. And through that one once-for-all offering He was able to ‘sanctify’ us (make us ‘holy’ in Christ as fully set apart to Him and covered by His righteousness), and thus present us as perfect before Him in the perfection of Christ. It is a once-for-all change of situation and position for those who are in Christ.
The argument follows a clear pattern. It begins with the inadequacy of the old covenant, under which repeated sacrifices were necessary (verses 1-4). It then stresses that the one voluntary sacrifice of Christ, supersedes the repeated sacrifices (verses 5-10), and that the one priesthood of Christ, supersedes the Levitical priesthood (verses 11-14), and concludes with the full adequacy of the New Covenant, because no more sacrifice for sins is necessary (verses 15-18).
10.1 ‘For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually (or ‘in perpetuity’), make perfect those who draw near.’
The fact is that the old ceremonial Law could not make men perfect so that they could come openly and without restraint before God, because it dealt in shadows, in what were only partial representations of the full reality. The outward purpose of the full Law was to make men perfect before God, but it could only partially achieve it because it was not in itself sufficient. It served its purpose until men were more in a position to receive the full truth, the reality, ‘the very image (full and accurate representation) of the thing’.
One reason why it could only partially succeed was that it only contained within it a shadow of the good things to come, a partial, clouded representation (as of God at Sinai) but not the full reality. The ‘good things’ include such good things as full forgiveness of sins, fullness of spiritual life, understanding of truth in the heart, and the ability to approach God directly and walk with Him. And these were to be introduced through the Coming One, through our Wonderful Lord Jesus, and His perfect life and teaching, and through Who He Is as made known to men, and through His equally perfect sacrifice of Himself. The Law could not contain a true image of those things. It simply portrayed shadows, a visible but vague outline of the real thing, which was partial and had no lasting substance and was therefore eventually to pass away as all shadows do when the sun comes to its height.
It did this through an earthly sanctuary, with its sacred furniture, and its continuously active priesthood, with its message of ‘come, but do not come too close’, and its ever continuing sacrificial system which endlessly and unceasingly made offerings for sin. All this brought home the holiness and mercy of God. But they were shadows of the truth (although far better than the nations around enjoyed). They could not accomplish the reality. They were like a vague dark shape resulting from a partially revealed light, a promise of what might be, without giving a full, true illumination. Rather than bringing men right into God’s presence they kept them at a safe distance from Him, (although this in itself revealed something about Him), while still allowing limited approach on the right terms. They said, ‘thus far and no further’ for they could never achieve the end of perfecting God’s people sufficiently for them to come directly under the searching eye of a holy God. They could never perfect them so that they could enjoy a perfect relationship with the Holy One. And this was because they failed to fully remove men’s sin or transform men and did not reveal the full true image, the heavenly reality. Thus they could not bring men fully to God. And this was especially true of the sacrifices which were offered continually year by year on the Day of Atonement.
A question I think of and maybe you have also is this, ‘why did God introduce the Israelites to these sacrifices and this ritual? While we cannot enter fully into the mystery of God’s ways, for not all is known to us, the answer undoubtedly partly lies in their inability to grasp anything more at that time, and in their unfitness to receive it. Truth had to be revealed on the basis of what they could appreciate. And God clearly saw it as best to reveal it under conditions that they could understand because it was in some way related to what they saw around them.
At that stage they had no conception of Heaven, no real conception of the holiness of God, no deep understanding of sin. (Many of them, the mixed multitude (Exodus 12.38) had no background at all in the things of Yahweh). It was through these very sacrifices and ritual, and the history that followed, that such conceptions were slowly built up. They were a preparation for what was to come
Furthermore we must remember that they also had to be set apart from the worship of those who were around them. Had they not had a ritual that was as good as, and even better than, that of others they would have been constantly tempted to stray as they saw what others seemed to have (as they in fact later did because they were unable to trust God). But at the same time as they seemingly shared the experience of those around them, they did so with the knowledge that their God was invisible, that He was not like any earthly parallel, that He was not a part of nature, and that He Was God over all while having a personal interest in them. And they were made aware of the awfulness of sin, and that there Was A God-provided way back to Him when they did sin. They were made aware of the moral dimension and that it was closely connected with Who and What their God Was.
We must consider how even today, when we have the greater truth, men still seek to depend on, and are led astray by, great buildings and a ritual that can blind men to the truth about God. They still seek after material rather than spiritual worship. [How much more then did this happen in the Israelites living]. If they had had nothing similar they would have seen the pagan temples, the pagan ceremonials, and in large numbers would have been drawn to them and away from God’s Law.
Furthermore the ritual that they were given did lead those whose hearts were right in the right way. Not for them idolatrous representations of gods that were no gods. Not for them gods who could be manipulated and controlled. Not for them gods which could be easily made, and as easily broken. Rather they knew God as One Who could not be too easily approached and manipulated. One Who was in control rather than being controlled by them. Thus it was for their good, and was certainly sufficient, for those whose hearts were right were enabled to find forgiveness on the basis of what their offerings pointed forward to
10.2 ‘Else would they not have ceased to be offered? because the worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have had no more consciousness of sins.’
And this lack must be true for if they had not been shadows, would they not have accomplished their end? If the worshippers had been truly cleansed, would the sacrifices not have ceased to be offered? Would the worshippers then not have ceased to be conscious of their sins because they had been truly atoned for? The very continuing repetition of the sacrifices, revealing a continuing consciousness of sin, also revealed the failure of their offerings and sacrifices to deal with sin. The necessity for continuing repairs is an evidence of continuing failure.
Please take special note here of a very important point. What the writer has in mind is the final solution. What man needs is not just something to make his daily life possible in spite of his sin, but something which can once-for-all put man in such a state that he can continually approach God without fear for ever, something that can be finally effective.
Ask yourselves this question, or which I had struggled with, ‘has the enemy kept you focused on your sins? [past, present, and future] Take control of your thoughts. The Precious Lamb of God our Lord Jesus Christ offered Himself up and shed His blood so that all of us believers are free of any guilt of sin. We are washed clean!
10.3-4 ‘But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of sins year by year, for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.’
But this was not so with ‘those sacrifices’. Indeed their continually being offered, rather than suggesting that they were a solution to the problem, was a continual reminder of the fact that they were not a solution but a temporary measure, something that must go on and on, but would never finally achieve their purpose. Year by year they drew attention to the failure of God’s people, and therefore to their own failure to make men perfect. And this was part of their purpose, to continually remind man that the wages of sin was death, to face men up with the awfulness of sin, to give a remembrance of sin, and to turn men to the One Who alone could deal with sin.
It was inevitable that they could only be a reminder to men of sin, and their need for mercy, for, if they only thought about it they would realize that the blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sins. How could they be sufficient to do so? What power had they to do so? They were but sacrifices of dumb beasts which had no choice in the matter. How could the blood of such bulls and goats make men perfect? The whole idea was impossible. All they could be at their very best was the proof of repentance from a heart which had failed, but desired to be obedient to God. Although let that not be dismissed as unimportant.
For what was much more important to God than sacrifices was obedience (1 Samuel 15.22). It was only sacrifice that resulted from a desire to be obedient that was acceptable to God. It was surely therefore clear that these offerings must be insufficient but were portraying a greater reality than they themselves possessed. It should be clear that if man’s sin was to be taken away, and if man was to be made perfect, a far greater sacrifice and a far greater power than theirs would be required, a sacrifice both voluntary and tied up with full obedience, a sacrifice which was greater far than all of them.
10.5-6 ‘That is the reason why when he comes into the world, he says, “Sacrifice and offering you would not, But a body did you prepare for me. In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure.” ’
We learn that it was because of the failure of these offerings and sacrifices to finally achieve God’s purpose that they were to be put aside as not sufficient for God. That then explains why the Psalmist said that when Messiah comes into the world He will declare, ‘sacrifice and offering you would not, but a body did you prepare for Me.’ He is setting aside the offerings and sacrifices because in His coming a greater purpose was here.
The quotation is taken from Psalm 40.6-8. There the Psalmist is speaking of obedience as being far more important to God than any sacrifices for obedience was hard while partaking in ritual was easy. So the danger always with ritual was that it could become the be all and end all, as though it could work by itself regardless of the response of men’s hearts. That is not so, says the Psalmist. God looks first for the obedient heart without which all sacrifices are unacceptable and in vain.
With this understanding we see the connection of what our Holy Spirit Is teaching us. It means that the body has been given to the Messiah so that He might act obediently on God’s behalf rather than just trusting in the efficacy of outward ritual. He has been given a body so that he might walk with God and obey Him, so that He might do His will. The body here represents the whole living person, the one who hears and the one who does, in contrast to the ritual offering which neither hears nor does.
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.’ ”
Recognizing that it was written in the Scriptures that God required the offering up of His own body, of His own self, given willingly in full obedience, He set His face like a flint to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9.51), where in Gethsemane at the final hour He bowed His head and said, ‘Your will be done’ (Mark 14.36) for He knew that that was why He had come. He was here to do God’s will, as it was written in the Scriptures. He was here to be the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, the suffering Son of Man of Daniel 7.25, the suffering Son of David of Psalm 22.
10.8 ‘Saying above, Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin were not your will, neither did you have pleasure in them (the which are offered according to the law),’
In the final analysis it was not a whole range of animal sacrifices that God wanted. They may have been many and varied, but they were a concession to human weakness, to meeting His people as they were, shaped by their environment. They were not His final will. Nor did He find any satisfaction in them when they were not offered from fully obedient hearts (this refers, the writer says, to those sacrifices made in accordance with ‘law’ - with legal requirements). What He required was obedience to His will, and what was therefore really necessary because of His holiness and purity, was an obedient and willing sacrifice, a sacrifice made by One Who knew all the truth and was fully submissive to His will at whatever cost.
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.
In particular what God wanted was that His will might be done in accordance with His eternal plan, and that will was the offering up of the body of His Holy Son Jesus once for all. And that doing of God’s will was also what Our Lord Jesus willed along with Him, and voluntarily entered into, as He demonstrated when He boldly stated, ‘See, I am come to do your will’.
He canceled the first, so that He may establish the second.’ So by His act of obedience does He rid men of dependence on offerings and sacrifices, so that He might establish and make them dependent on His fully obedient, crucified and risen body of which they are to become ‘members’.
10.10 ‘By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.’
Thus it is by the will of God that the body of Jesus, Jehovah Mekhaddishkem, The Lord Who Sanctifies, has been offered up, once for all, so that also by God’s will those whom He has chosen in eternity (Ephesians 1.4), and calls to Himself, might be ‘sanctified’ in Christ’s body. That is, that they might be set apart to Him, in union with Christ, being seen as perfect before Him clothed in the righteousness and obedience and perfection of Christ. The idea of being ‘sanctified’ here is that they are made fully acceptable to God through participation in Christ’s once-for-all offering of Himself as the One Who was obedient in all things, a sanctification (a making holy, a separating in all things) the benefit of which continues to the present time.
‘We have been sanctified.’ Perfect tense, ‘have been and therefore are sanctified’. In God’s will they have been borne along and made acceptable to a holy God religiously, being now seen as holy to God and pure before Him.
Let’s take a moment and think about the significance of this verse ‘Through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.’ What about those priests who perform Mass? The Catholic Church claims that they take a host [bread] and wine and magically [called transubstantiation] offer the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ over and over. This is wrong plain and simple.
The offering of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, Jehovah Shalom, The Lord our Peace, both representative Man (Jesus and Messiah (Christ), the One Who always did the will of God, enables His obedience to be set to our account and be like a covering over us, enshrouding us in His purity and goodness, as it is applied to us through the sprinkling of His blood as we read in chapter 13.12). We are sanctified by His Spirit resulting in obedience and the sprinkling of the Precious Blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1.2)
10.11-13 ‘And every priest indeed stands day by day ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, the which can never take away sins, but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God, henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet.’
For, says the writer, I want you to note the contrast. The priests minister day by day, standing and continually and regularly offering the same type of sacrifice over and over again, their service never ceasing. Yet they can never take away sins. But He Jehovah Jireh, The Lord Who Provides, in contrast, having offered one sacrifice of sins forever, had accomplished once-for-all what was required for the taking away of sins, for He sat down at the right hand of God, complete proof that His priestly work was done and satisfactorily accomplished. He has taken His seat because His redeeming work has been accomplished, and He awaits the final triumph that must result because it is all connected with the same purpose.
And now, His task being completed successfully, He reigns and encourages His people, and waits for all His enemies to be defeated and humbled at His feet. Success has been achieved; victory over all evil in the heavens and in earth has been accomplished. His work has been finalized. He could triumphantly say, ‘it is finished’. All that waits is the final consummation.
Please take note the deliberate contrasts:
• 1). ‘Every priest’ emphasizes multiplicity and anonymity, ‘but He’ stresses one Who was unique.
• 2). They minister ‘day by day’, He has offered ‘once for ever’.
• 3). They continue to minister ‘standing’, He has ‘taken His seat’ on the throne, having completed His ministry.
• 4). They offer repeated sacrifices, He has offered one sacrifice for sins forever.
• 5). their sacrifices are without power, His has resulted in supreme power.
Man has woven his filthy garment of sin (Isaiah 64.6) which cannot be removed by priestly offerings. But through Christ, Jehovah Tsidkenu, The Lord our righteousness, it can be removed and we can instead be enveloped in His obedience.
10.14 ‘For by one offering he has perfected for ever those who are sanctified.’
For by one offering He has fully achieved His aim, He has perfected for ever (perfected in the past so that the benefit continues to the present day) those who are being sanctified (are in the process of having their sanctification, provided for them in verse 10, made into a reality through and through). That is, He has made them be seen as continually perfect in the sight of God, clothing them with His own perfection, with a view to them being made perfect through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Through His death He has wrought a perfect salvation for all who are His.
10.15 ‘And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us. For after he has said,’
This fact is borne witness to by the Holy Spirit in the words of the new covenant, when He speaks of the transformation of their inner hearts and lives and the total and complete remission and ‘forgetting’ of their sins.
10.16-17 “This is the covenant that I will make with them. After those days, says the Lord, I will put my laws on their heart, And upon their mind also will I write them.” ‘Then he says, “And their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” ’
The new covenant is now repeated and refers to the work of the Holy Spirit in writing God’s laws in their hearts and minds. He will bring home to them the word of God and all He requires. He will work in them to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2.13). He will create in them a new heart (Psalm 51.10). He will give them the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2.16).
Now here is something I want you to write down and have available to look at on a daily basis. Added to this Covenant which El Shaddai, Almighty God has decreed will be the complete removal of their sinfulness [That applies to us folks]. All their sins and iniquities, their outward failures (‘sins’) and their inward sinfulness (‘iniquities’), will be remembered no more. They will be deliberately obliterated from God’s memory. ‘Remembered no more’ is, of course, hyperbole to express the completeness of God’s forgiveness -nothing that they have done or failed to do, will be counted against them any longer. Consider these things which we are free from spiritual death (Ephesians 2.1, 5), bondage (Mark 10.45), indebtedness (Colossians 2.14) and alienation (Colossians 1.21)
10.18 ‘Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.’
All this being so no further offerings for sin will be required. For once sins are remitted, removed and sent away, there is no more an offering for sin. All offerings for sin have become redundant.
The inference behind all this is that once Christ’s work has been wrought in a man or woman the problem of their sin as a barrier or as a condemnation is dealt with forever as far as God Is concerned. It will nevermore be accounted to them. Thus no more sacrifices and offerings are required. What will be required of them is their obedience as children to their Father. And if that obedience fails there will be chastisement but never condemnation (Romans 8.1).