“Instead of realities, the law could only foreshadow the benefits Christ would bring. The perpetual sacrifices never enabled people to draw near to God. If individuals had been cleansed, such sacrifices would have been discontinued, for the worshipers would not have been burdened with the guilt of sin. On the contrary, these sacrifices were an annual reminder of sins, for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to atone for transgressions. When Christ came He declared, ‘You have no pleasure in offerings and sacrifices, but instead You have made ready a body for Me to offer. You were dissatisfied with animal sacrifices which were slain and burnt as sin offerings.’ Then He said, ‘Here am I, as the Scriptures have foretold, to do your will, O God.’ After this He affirmed, ‘You took no delight in the sin offerings the Law prescribed.’ He repeated, ‘I am ready to do your will, O God.’ He abolished the old covenant in order to establish the new. In accordance with this plan, we have been sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ’s body once and for all.” (paraphrased)
At this point in the epistle, it becomes apparent the writer has been reiterating certain doctrinal truths. Although he has already explored these subjects to some degree, repetition for the sake of emphasis was a common Hebrew didactic method. He trusts that presenting the same concepts in different words will make an indelible impression on the minds of his readers. Having proven the effectiveness of Christ’s atonement in the previous chapter, he proceeds to affirm our acceptance by God through Jesus’ sacrifice.
Chapter ten has two primary divisions: the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice (1-20) and the pragmatic application of this truth through steadfast and faithful obedience (21-39). In this chapter, the writer shows:
<> Animal sacrifices were ineffective (vv. 1-4).
<> The Redeemer offered the perfect sacrifice (vv. 5-10).
<> His offering was effectual for forgiveness (vv. 11-18).
<> Positive benefits are connected with His sacrifice (vv. 19-25).
<> There are consequences for those who reject Him (vv. 26-31).
<> Perseverance is essential for victorious living (vv. 32-39).
The first ten verses of this chapter recapitulate some things that have been previously stated. Fresh insights are provided as the writer continues to put the two covenants in proper perspective. Although it was evident that the law foreshadowed “good things,” the Mosaic economy was powerless to save even one soul. The entire Levitical system is dismissed as a mere “shadow” (skia). A shadow is a silhouette without substance; an indistinct representation of a distinct reality. The “good things to come” are called “the very image” (eikon). The skia can be compared to an outline on a canvas and the eikon to the finished masterpiece. While skia points to something unsubstantial and indefinite, eikon pictures that which is substantial and definitive. The contrast is as distinctive as a blurred black-and-white photo set alongside a clear full-color photo of the same scene.
The Levitical law was a sketch of the “good things” Christ’s sacrifice wrought, but it could not bring worshipers into complete fellowship with God (v. 1), neutralize the conscious guilt of sin (v. 2), eliminate the need for perpetual sacrifices (v. 3), or atone for sin through animal blood (v. 4). No amount of repetitive sacrifices could produce regeneration.
The writer asks a rhetorical question which presupposes an affirmative answer. If sacrifices had proven themselves to be adequate atonement, why do they continue? For example, one who suffers from a physical disease may find temporary relief in a prescribed medication. However, the process must be repeated because the effects of the medicine diminish. The complete cure for the human disease of sin could only be wrought by our Great Physician on Calvary.
The term “once and for all” (hapex) conveys the idea of completing something so perfectly that repetition is unnecessary. Only if the worshipers had been morally cleansed would their sin and guilt have been eradicated. Because the effect upon the conscience of a worshiper was minimal, the stream of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly sacrifices continued. Perpetual sacrificial rituals in themselves were conclusive proof of their ineffectiveness. New sins demanded new sacrifices. While beasts provided temporary expiation, they were powerless to provide eternal redemption.
The phrase “consciousness of sin” can be defined simply as guilt. A troubled conscience is caused by the anticipation of future judgment for sins. As pain detects physical injuries, so guilt detects spiritual injuries. God built guilt into human nature to warn of sin and its consequences. But to have “no further consciousness of sin” does not infer there was no further awareness of sin. In fact, salvation through Christ imparts in each Believer an increased sensitivity to sin. The Holy Spirit helps the conscience to properly discern right from wrong and act accordingly. Confession of sins to God is mandated in both the old covenant and the new. Whoever confesses and forsakes his sins will find mercy (Pv. 28:13). If we confess our sins, Jesus is “faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).
The annual removal of sins on the Day of Atonement served as a yearly reminder of transgressions. Far from bringing peace to a sinner’s heart, every sacrifice verified that complete elimination of sin was impossible under the Levitical law. Through these horrifying and bloody sacrifices, the Jews saw that all sin results in death. The agony of the guilt-ridden conscience and the seemingly endless sacrifices were designed by God to pave the way for redemption through Christ. No created being – neither man, beast, nor angel – can remove sin. Only the One who had God’s nature could satisfy God’s justice.
The writer characteristically defends his position from the authority of Scripture. As Christ was preparing for His incarnation, He spoke words which the Holy Spirit saw fit to preserve through David in Psalm 40:6-8. After quoting parts of this Psalm, the writer gives a brief commentary on them. “When he came into the world” is a Semitic expression meaning “to be born.” From time immemorial, Jesus was willing to do God’s will.
The answer to the mystery of Christ’s incarnation is found in His atonement (Lk. 1:35). Anticipating the messianic sacrifice, the entire Old Testament is permeated with references to the inferiority of animal sacrifices. The knowledge of God and obedience to Him is superior to burnt offerings (Hos. 6:6). The sacrifices God desires are a contrite and broken spirit (Ps. 51:17).
The writer quotes from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) where we find the phrase “my ears (otia) you have opened” instead of “a body (soma) you have prepared for me.” Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the writer interprets this phrase to stress the fact of Jesus’ willingness to hear and obey the Father’s directives. In order to accomplish this, Jesus was “fitted” or “equipped” with a human body through the virgin birth.
Consider the difference between Christ’s body and that of an ordinary human:
<> His body was prepared by the Father and conceived by the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:31).
<> His body was never utilized for sinful purposes (Heb. 7:26).
<> His body was capable of the pain and sufferings common to all human beings (I Pet. 2:21).
<> His body was willingly sacrificed by an act of his own volition (Heb. 10:7).
<> His body was raised from the dead by the Father (Acts 3:15).
<> His body was taken into heaven via His ascension (Acts 1:9).
Although sacrifices were necessary to fulfill the Levitical law, God was never fully satisfied with them. Such offering were termed “vain oblations” (Isa. 1:13). He took no pleasure in these insufficient payments for sin. Micah indicates the Lord would not be pleased even with thousands of sacrificial rams (Mic. 6:7).
“I come” expresses the willingness of the Son to always do what pleased His Father (Jn. 8:29). Christ’s life and death revealed what God had planned prior to the creation of the world (Eph. 3:9). The Lord often affirmed His primary mission was doing the will of God. “I have come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Mt. 18:11). “I arrived that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). “I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (Jn. 6:38).
Because His sacrifice is central to all Biblical truth, unbelievers are instructed to “search the Scriptures” (Jn. 5:39). Jesus told those who arrested Him to allow prophecy to be fulfilled (Mk. 14:49). He plainly stated that “all things must come to pass which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me” (Lk. 24:44). On the road to Emmaus, He expounded from the Scriptures numerous things regarding himself (Lk. 24:25-27).
Concerning self-sacrifice, animals are non-consensual. The contrast is between mammals who could not refuse to be sacrificed and the Messiah who willingly offered Himself. The cooperative and obedient spirit of the Son of God was what God desired to see exemplified in the life of every Israelite.
“Above” refers us back to verse five concerning the inability of animal sacrifices to satisfy God’s requirements for redemption. Myriads of peace offerings, meal offerings, burnt offerings, and sin offerings were of no avail. Consequently, God provided a Lamb without spot or blemish that would take away the sins of the world (I Pet. 1:19-20 & Jn. 1:29). What ultimately brought the Father pleasure was His Son’s obedience to His divine will.
Exactly where and when Jesus spoke the words, “Lo, I come to do your will, O God” is unknown. It is also irrelevant. Obedience is a primary characteristic of Jesus. The writer’s point is that Christ’s driving passion was to obey the Father and complete His work (Jn. 8:29 & 4:34). The Lord expressed a sense of urgency regarding His redemptive task (Lk. 12:50).
The writer reinforces a statement he has made several times. The former sacrificial system must be abolished in order to establish the latter, for the two cannot coexist. “The first” refers to sacrifices and offerings (v. 6) and “the second” concerns performing the will of God. Because God was never propitiated through such sacrifices, His Son offered Himself according to His Father’s directive.
By virtue of Jesus’ obedience and subsequent sacrifice we are sanctified (hagiazo), which means “to be set apart.” However, hagiazo is used here in the most comprehensive sense. The use of this term in Hebrews carries the same force as justification in the book of Romans (3:20-28 & 5:16-18). Christ’s work on the cross involves the salvation and purification of all Believers. All the “good things” (10:1) that God has prepared for us can be traced back to the stellar sacrifice of Christ.
QUESTIONS: CHRIST AND OBEDIENCE
1. List some of the benefits you have derived by having your sins forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice.
2. Which of the following things did Christ’s sacrifice accomplish?
A. it neutralized the guilt of sin
B. it eliminated the need for perpetual sacrifices
C. it completely atoned for sins
D. it produced regeneration
E. all of the above
3. Which of the following Psalms is quoted in this passage?
A. Psalm 12
B. Psalm 20
C. Psalm 33
D. Psalm 40
E. Psalm 57
4. The phrase “consciousness of sins” can be defined as__________________
5. Who helps Believers to discern right from wrong? ______________________
6. According to Psalm 28:13, the person who confesses and forsakes his sins will find what? ______________________
7. According to Hebrews 11:4, who offered an acceptable sacrifice to God? ____________
8. The Greek translation of the Old Testament is called the____________________
9. As sanctified Believers, our lives are to be set apart for God. List things you have eliminated from your home that are displeasing to the Lord.
10. Pray about it – and then list films you should remove from your collection.