We now come to the central topic in the letter to the Hebrews — the offering of Christ’s own life, flesh, and blood, for the sins of the world.
The body and blood of Jesus, because he was without sin, made an offering that satisfied God once and for all. By that perfect offering we are perfected and are being sanctified.
The plan for this lesson is simply to look at seven things the Hebrew writer says about Christ’s perfect sacrifice. We will take them in the order in which he first mentions them, but as we take each one we will skip ahead to other verses (if any) where he revisits the point.
These seven attributes of Christ's sacrifice are interdependent. We are studying them as we might study a steam engine, pulling it apart, examining the pieces. But of course it needs to be put together again to work. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As we think about each attribute, we must see it as fitting into the whole.
Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 10:3-7,17
The Hebrew writer believes that whilst people under the old covenant were certainly justified and forgiven, it was not by any sacrifice of blood offered under the old covenant, but by anticipation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Forgiveness before the cross was provisional.
The sins forgiven were not taken away and remembered no more. The Hebrew writer explains that "in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year".
When Christ made his perfect sacrifice, those other merely symbolic sacrifices could —and should— have ceased. Now there is a forgiveness of sins in which there is no more remembrance of sin.
Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 13:12, Hebrews 10:5-7
The Hebrew writer emphasises that Jesus offered "his own blood". The priests of old offered the blood of animals which was a substitute that could sanctify and purify only by virtue of its symbolism of Christ’s blood.
It had long been known that forgiveness required a sacrifice of blood. Most people did not realise, however, that the blood sacrifices offered were not of themselves acceptable to God
A blood sacrifice made in its own right cannot please God, and cannot do the worshipper any good. God accepted such sacrifices, if they were offered genuinely in faith, only because they foreshadowed the perfect sacrifice by God of "his own blood."
The Hebrew writer uses the word "eternal" six times in his letter. He speaks of eternal salvation, eternal judgment, eternal redemption, the eternal Spirit, eternal inheritance, and the eternal covenant. Three of those instances are here (Hebrews 9:12-15).
The old sacrifices were temporal, that is to say they were offered and were effective on a week by week, month by month, or year by year basis. They were linked to times and seasons, to new moons and sabbaths. They were tied to time.
But faith looks to an "eternal inheritance" that is "a heavenly one" which exists beyond earthly time and space (cf Hebrews 9:15 with Hebrews 11:13-16)
Christ's sacrifice was made "at the end of the ages" (see Hebrews 9:26) also referred to as the "last days" (see Hebrews 1:2).
The sacrifice of Christ was timely made, however its effect transcends time. Even when time itself is no more, the redemption we have through Christ’s sacrifice will remain.
Hebrews 9:9,14, Hebrews 10:1-2,22, Leviticus 11:23-47
Chapters nine and ten mention the conscience four times. The writer is looking at how man can become "perfect in conscience" and come near to God in "full assurance" that his heart is "sprinkled clean from an evil conscience"
Worshippers offering the old sacrifices were left with sin still on their consciences. The sacrifice of Christ, however, can "cleanse your conscience from dead works". Under the old law, if certain dead things touched you or you touched them, you were unclean and had to go through a purification of the flesh.
The Hebrew writer may be making an analogy of this. Our sins are "dead works" in the sense that they touch our consciences and make them vile and unclean. How can our consciences be purified from this defilement? Only by Christ’s sacrifice.
Imagine there was a car wash or floor cleaner that you applied once, and it kept your car or floor sparkling clean forever, and you never had to repeat the washing ever again. In Old Testament times, the sacrifices and ceremonies performed for cleansing from sin had to be repeated over and over.
Christ’s sacrifice was a once and for all offering. That is why in Christianity we offer no sacrifices for sin.
It is also why baptism "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38) is not a repeated ceremony. We only need once to be "baptized into his death" (Romans 6:3-4) because he died "once for all".
Because we are crucified with Christ, whenever we genuinely seek forgiveness of sins, God grants it without even requiring another baptism, let alone more sacrifices and offerings for sin.
One of the most categorical statements that the Hebrew writer makes is this: "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins". We need to remember that these sacrifices were commanded by God.
If it was "impossible" for sacrifices that God commanded to take away sin, then it is certainly impossible for man to find any other sacrifice that was acceptable to God, isn't it?
On this basis, we would bring our sins to God for forgiveness, only to have him shout "Impossible! Impossible!" Since we are thus helpless and impotent, God himself made the sacrifice for us, sending his only begotten Son to make atonement for our sins. Of course he accepts his own sacrifice. No wonder we sing "Amazing grace..." Jesus made the impossible possible.
Hebrews 12:2-3, Hebrews 13:11-13, Hebrews 11:24-26
Christ was crucified between two thieves, and was treated as a criminal, yet he had done no wrong. He was willing, for the joy of our salvation, to "endure the cross despising the shame".
When following Christ seems difficult and painful, and we are in danger of becoming weary and discouraged in our souls, we only have to consider the reproach that Jesus bore for us.
The Hebrew writer points out that Jesus died "outside the gate" — an outcast. This was symbolised of old by destroying the bodies of animals "outside the camp".
They were a reproach. We too will often be outcasts, yet we are honoured to share the reproach of Christ, and we know we will be welcome into the city of Heaven. Having entered its gate we will never be cast out.
Like Moses, therefore, we "choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt..."