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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Greater (est) Sacrifice


Hebrews 10
The writer of Hebrews put forth his final thoughts on the new covenant. He stated what made the covenant active and what made the priesthood of Jesus Christ greater. He stated in chapter 10 that the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for these and for all sin for all time.
The writer reminded us that the Law instituted with the first covenant was just a shadow of the good things to come. The Law could never be sufficient. If it was, sacrifices would not have been needed continually to make humans perfect and consecrated so they could draw near to God. In addition, if the sacrifices provided by the Law had cleansed them forever, it would have removed from their minds their consciousness of sin, but it had not. Those sacrifices each year reminded them of their sins. This was because it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. It takes something greater than the created world to remove sin devised and performed by created humankind.
The psalmist said in Psalm 40:6-8, God did not desire sacrifices and offerings. Samuel stated in 1 Samuel 15:22 that the Lord delights in obedience. God considers that better than sacrifice. Psalm 51, the sinner’s prayer, acknowledges in verse 16 that the Lord does not delight in sacrifice and burnt offerings. Jeremiah, Amos, and Micah speak of this, too. The writer of Hebrews used what the people of the time knew to bolster his argument for Christ’s sacrifice being the better sacrifice. The psalmist in chapter 40 continued in verses 7-8 by speaking as the Christ. “Behold I come, as it is written/prescribed of me.” The Son delights to do the will of the Father and acknowledges that the Father’s Law is in His heart. In John 4:34, John tells of Jesus saying this, too, “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work’.” The Law that is within His heart speaks to the closeness of the Son to the Father. It also speaks to how God puts the new covenant within the hearts of confessed believers. He writes it on their hearts via the Holy Spirit. God commanded the Israelites to tell their children and grandchildren about Him and the Laws. This is what the psalmist said in 37:31, Jeremiah in 31:33, and Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:3. It is a comparison of the two covenants. The first the Israelites had to recall and teach others; the second God writes upon their hearts. These verses in Psalm 40 are from where the writer of Hebrews obtained information for his chapter 10 verses 5-8. The writer of Hebrews reiterated, by Christ doing the Father’s will, He took away the first covenant and established the second covenant.
Jesus Christ’s establishing the second covenant comes through His sacrifice of Himself, as the bulls and goats were before, to take away sins. His offering of His own body sanctifies (hagiazo - consecrates, dedicates, cleanses from sin and its guilt) believers forever. Christ’s priesthood is greater than that of the Levitical priests who daily ministered and offered repeatedly the same sacrifices, which never took away sins, but just covered them. Jesus offered His perfect sacrifice for sins (offering from the Creator God for the created is greater). After His sacrifice of His death upon a cross for sins for all time, and His resurrection, He sat down at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1). He is waiting there as our mediator/intercessor until His enemies (Satan and his demons) are made a footstool for His feet (Psalm 110:1). The placing of His enemies under His feet means the subduing for all time the enemies of God.
The writer of Hebrews summarized this most important doctrine of the new covenant in verses 14-18. By one offering, Jesus perfected (teleioo – completed, accomplished, fulfilled the prophecies of scriptures) for all time those who are sanctified (hagiazo – cleansed from sin and guilt; consecrated and dedicated). The Holy Spirit testifies (marturea - bears witness; affirms that one has seen, heard, or experienced something) to believers, too. The Holy Spirit writes God’s laws upon the hearts and minds of believers (Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 8:10). He tells them that God will no longer remembers their sins (Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:12). The coup de gras for humankind is this: where God forgives sin, no other sin offering is required. If a person believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God and confesses his or her sins to God, then Jesus forgives his or her sins forever. There is no longer any sacrifice needed for sanctification, cleansing, and dedication to God.
What does this mean then to believers in Jesus Christ? It means they can have confidence to enter the holy place for themselves. Believers can talk directly to God without need for a sacrifice for cleansing and without need for an earthly intermediary. They have access through the blood sacrifice of Jesus. He opened the veil, which separated humankind from God, by being the perfect and sufficient sin sacrifice. Since believers then have as their priest the greatest Priest over the house of God, they can be near God knowing with full assurance that God cleansed them from evil/sin and a guilty conscience. Believers must now live in the following way. They live with assurance of their salvation. They hold fast with confidence the confession (Hebrews 3:1) of our hope (Hebrews 3:6) of eternity with God without wavering, knowing that He who promised is faithful. Remember God is faithful to His promises. Jesus coming as the Messiah is the ultimate promise of God fulfilled. Believers hold to their confession with hope for their future with God. They act based upon it. They must assemble with others believers, stimulate each other to love and good deeds, and encourage each other as they see the day of the Lord drawing close. Believers are to encourage each other to continue in the faith and to do good works because of the love God has put in their hearts. They are to love God and other humans so that others will see and experience the love of God. God's love will draw others to Him and His salvation.
Each person, in the end, will be held accountable for whether he or she accepted the knowledge of the Truth or not when it was shown to him or her (10:26). If a person knows about Jesus and His salvation, but chooses to live in his or her sins (way of life), judgment will come from God in the last days. Fire will devour and consume him or her (Isaiah 26:11 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7). God chose to love us and draw us back to Him. He provided forgiveness for our sins. This is through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, whom God resurrected and who sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Each person must choose for him or herself whether to believe in Jesus, confess his or her sins, and become a renewed, re-formed child of God. God did everything to bring us back to Him. We must each decide for ourselves to believe in His Son, Jesus, and confess our sins. It is that easy.
Have you heard about God’s Son, Jesus, and His sacrifice? Have you believed and accepted His forgiveness? Are you following Him daily and living as the writer of Hebrews said in Hebrews 10:19-25? When you have heard of God’s love and gospel message, you must make a decision. Your decision will determine your ultimate judgment by God when Jesus returns to earth. You get to choose. Will you choose Jesus?