Hebrews 10 - Christ's Sacrifice Once For All
Animal Sacrifices Cannot Make Us Perfect
Here the writer returns to his earlier theme, comparing the perfect sacrifice of Christ to the imperfect sacrifices of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant sacrifices could not make the worshipper perfect. That is shown in that they had to be offered year after year. In fact, those sacrifices reminded worshippers of sins because the could not obtain salvation for them. Again he says the law is a shadow of salvation in Christ. The law and the sacrifices were not meant by God to be permanent, but to point the way to the sacrifice of Christ.
Paul also told us the law acted as a keeper or guardian until the coming of Christ. In Galatians 3:19, he wrote “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring (Christ) should come to whom the promise had been made...”. Then, in verse 24, he wrote “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”
God Rejected Old Covenant Sacrifices
Of course, God never intended the sacrifices to be empty ritual. They were not to take the place of love, devotion and worship. The important thing was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”. (Deuteronomy 6:5) When Israel failed to love God completely, the Lord rejected their meaningless sacrifices. In our study of the book of Jeremiah, we heard the Lord say “Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.” (Jeremiah 6:20)
The writer of Hebrews goes to the Old Testament to make this point. He quoted Psalm 40:6-8. Psalm 40 is attributed to David. But Hebrews attributes these words to Christ! Hebrews 10:5 says “Consequently when Christ came into the world, he said...”. So David spoke personally to his time, inspired by the Holy Spirit. But, he also spoke prophetically, speaking the words of Christ at his coming.
So, what did he say?
First, he said God did not desire sacrifices and offerings. (5) God did, however, decree the sacrifices. But he desired them only with love and devotion, not as ritual or superstition. In Hosea 6:6, God said “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
That word is relevant for us today as well. God does not want you to come to church for the ritual or to make yourself feel you are doing your duty by checking off the box of church attendance. You can sing the songs, sit through the sermon bow your head during the prayers and not worship. We have all probably done this at one time. I think you could stop at the end of the hymn singing and ask some people what songs they sang and they could not tell you. That ritual does not please God. Worship in spirit and truth pleases God. (John 4:23-24)
Back to the Psalm. David prophesied that one would come who would perfectly do the will of the Father. That person was Christ. So, in effect, he said “I have come to do your will O God”. (7)
Christ came in human form and did the will of God perfectly. He kept the law. But he did not do it just as ritual. He loved God with all his heart. Jesus said “...I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:31He did not sin. He did all he was supposed to do and he did nothing he was not supposed to do. He told his disciples “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) He did not disregard the law, but obeyed it in the spirit in which it was intended. He said “...I do as the father has commanded me...” (John 14:31) He also said “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4) Some would call this the “active obedience” of Christ. He obeyed all the requirements of the law. For example, he was circumcised, he observed the Passover obeyed the commandments. (In contrast, his “passive obedience” is his assuming our guilt for sin and paying the price for it by dying on the cross for us.)
Part of the will of God for Christ was his death for our sins. Peter preached that “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified...” (Acts 2:23). Jesus was obedient to this part of God’s will. Philippians 2:8 says “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. And, Hebrews explains to us that, according to God’s will, Jesus did away with the first covenant sacrifice to establish the second covenant through the sacrifice of Christ. (9) And it is God’s will that we are sanctified through Christ’s sacrifice “once for all”. (10)
So, not only did Christ die once for all, we are sanctified once for all. We do not lose our salvation because he has achieved it with his perfect sacrifice. His sacrifice is better than the old covenant sacrifices and his covenant is better than the old covenant exactly because it does save completely.
In verse 14 he says it this way “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”. We are not sinless now, but Christ has won perfection for us. His perfect sacrifice obtained for us perfect forgiveness for all time.
We will get better and better at resisting sin as Christ sanctifies us through the work of the Holy Spirit during this life. But we will receive a perfect sinless nature for all time when he returns and changes us.
The sign of Jesus’ completion of his work of sacrifice is that he sat down at the right hand of the Father. (12) His sitting down is a signal that he is finished with his work. And indeed, just before he died, he said “it is finished”. (John 19:30) The Greek word for “finished” is “teleo”, which carries the idea of completing or fulfilling. Having fulfilled his work, he will stay in heaven until all of his enemies are defeated. (10:14)