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STUDIES IN HEBREWS

© Rosemary Bardsley, 2002

STUDY SEVEN: THE ONCE-FOR-ALL SACRIFICE OF CHRIST

Just as the writer has presented us with a description of Jesus Christ as the ultimate high priest far superior to the old priesthood, so he presents us with a description of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ as far superior to the many sacrifices offered by the old priesthood. In this study we will look firstly at the sacrifices offered under the old covenant, then at the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ; we will then again set these side by side in a table for ease of comparison.

A. SACRIFICES UNDER THE OLD COVENANT (THE LAW)

In these statement about the sacrifices offered under the regulations of the old covenant there are two recurring themes: (1) the repetitiveness of these sacrifices and (2) their temporary and superficial effectiveness. By way of extreme contrast, consider what is said about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ:

B. THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS CHRIST

The two predominant qualities of the sacrifice of Christ are (1) its once-for-all-ness and related permanence, and (2) its comprehensive and radical effectiveness.

Let us now look at these two contrasting sacrifices in table form; again a a in the centre column indicates similarity, and a r indicates contrast; the comments in this colour are not made on the basis of a text from Hebrews but express either truth gained from the teaching of the Bible generally, or are the expressions of the essential logical opposite. In some instances truths are listed here which were also listed in the table relating to the high priestly roles, because the high priest and the sacrifices they offered are intimately connected.

Ref
Old sacrifices
 
Sacrifice of Jesus Christ
Ref

5:3; 7:27

9:7

Had to be offered for the sins of the priest as well as the sins of the people

r

No sacrifice necessary for his own sins

7:27

7:11,18-19

10:1-4

Could not make us perfect

r

Makes us perfect

10:14

7:27; 9:6,7,25; 10:1,11

Needed to be offered day after day, year after year

r

Once-for-all

7:27; 9:12

9:25-28

10:10,12

8:1-6

9:1-10

9:11

Were offered in the earthly tabernacle which is a copy of the real presence of God

Were offered in a man-made tabernacle

r

Was offered in the real sanctuary - the very presence of God - not made by man.

He entered heaven itself.

9:11, 24,

8:13

Belonged to an obsolete covenant

r

Belongs to the new covenant

8:8

9:7, 18-23

Blood offering required

a

Blood offering required

9:9; 10:2-4

Could not clear the conscience of the worshipper

r

Cleansed from a guilty conscience

10:22

9:13

Made the ceremonially unclean outwardly clean

r

Cleanses our consciences so that we may serve God

He died as a ransom to set them free form the sins committed under the first covenant.

9:14

9:15

9:10;

10:1-4,11

Were external, ceremonial regulations, pending the coming of the new order.

Were temporary and repetitive pending the coming of the new order

r

Obtained eternal redemption

Permanently effective - 'for all time'

9:12

10:12

9:12

9:25

Blood of goats and calves

Not their own blood

r

Christ's own blood

He sacrificed himself

9:12,

9:26

10:1

The law prescribing these sacrifices is a shadow

r

Is the reality itself

10:1

10:2,3

Continued guilt feelings for sin

Annual reminder of sins

r

Does away with sin

Sins remembered no more

9:26

10:17

10:4, 11

Impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins; can never take away sins.

r

We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ

10:10

10:9

Are set aside

r

Is established

10:9

10:11,12

Was never finished

r

Is finished and done

10:12,13

Many sacrifices

r

One sacrifice

10:12,14

10:1-4,11

Always more sacrifices needed

r

No longer any sacrifice for sin needed

10:18

No confidence

r

Produces confidence to enter 'the Most Holy Place', to enter the presence of God

10:19,22

Old and dead way

r

Is a new and living way

10:20

The implications of what the writer has taught us about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ are massive. He tells us of something that is complete and permanent, something that has happened once-for-all in the one act of Jesus Christ, something that never was and never could be done by the old sacrifices. Think again of the impact this one, once-for-all, never to be repeated, permanent in its effect, sacrifice of Christ has:

  1. The redemption it obtained is eternal (9:12).
  2. It cleanses our consciences (9:14).
  3. It liberates us to serve God (9:14).
  4. It sets us free from sins (9:15).
  5. It does away with sin (9:26).
  6. It is established (10:9).
  7. It makes us holy (10:10).
  8. It is permanently effective, finished and complete (10:12-14).
  9. It makes us perfect forever (10:14).
  10. God remembers our sins and lawless acts no more (10:17).
  11. It makes any further sacrifice for sin redundant and unnecessary (10:18).
  12. It means that we have confidence to enter the very presence of God without fear of judgement or condemnation (10:19).
  13. It means we can draw near to God with full assurance of faith (10:22).
  14. It means that our hearts are cleansed from a guilty conscience (10:22).

This must be the ultimate in salvation! Who would think of leaving this salvation for anything else - for anything else can only be less! Yet that is exactly what the original readers of this letter were on the brink of doing. Had they not really understood who Jesus actually was? Had they not really understood what Jesus actually did?

But we could ask similar questions today as we look at the widespread lack of assurance of salvation, as we look at the focus of many Christians on their own religious performance and the accompanying guilt in which they wallow. This salvation so powerfully described in this letter leaves us with no doubts as to the permanence and completeness of the salvation obtained by the death of Jesus Christ and lavished as sheer gift on everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

For your study: Think deeply about each of the points in the yellow box. Ask yourself: do I really believe each of these statements from Hebrews? Or am I still burdened with a guilty conscience? Am I still living as though God still remembers my sins? Am I depending totally on the one, once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, or do I believe that my spiritual successes increase my standing in the presence of God and my spiritual failures diminish my acceptance in the presence of God? Do I believe that because of the death of Christ I have been set free to serve God - or do I feel that I must be 'good enough' before I can serve him? Do I live with the joy of knowing that, in Christ, God sees me 'perfect' and 'holy', or do I still see him angry or distant because of my sin? Do I know the peace of perfect access to him, or am I in the mindset that still sees my relationship with him severed every time I sin? Do I have the confidence and full assurance of faith which this letter says I have? Grasp hold of these great and liberating truths, and rejoice!