Hebrews 10:1-4… For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
There was in inherent problem with Judaism in the mind of the author, and it wasn’t his opinion that he aired. He was a Jew himself by race, and he was clearly writing to Jewish Christians – ethnic Jews who had converted to Christianity. They had, however, grown weary as Christians. They had suffered terrible persecution (10:32-34) and were leaning towards going back into the rituals of Judaism. But since Judaism was inferior in all respects to Christianity the author made a clear case, using Jewish Scripture and comparing Jesus to that Scripture, that falling back into Judaism was not only stupid but also eternally damning (6:4-6; cf. 10:26-31).
The law that Moses gave to the people of Israel was only a “shadow” of what God had planned to bring forth in Jesus Christ. “Shadow” is a pale reflection of the real thing which is sharp and distinct. Orthodox Jews kept the Mosaic Law to the best of their abilities, but even the best of them could not keep it in its entirety. The Law commanded that sin be atoned for by sacrificing animals day after day and year after year. If a person sinned they were to bring an animal to die in their place, for God had made this provision for them so that they themselves would not have to die. But these animal sacrifices were a mere “shadow of the good things to come.” They in and of themselves were incapable of making anyone perfect. Those who drew near to God with animals were attempting to be forgiven in order to be perfect. But their attempts to do so were pale reflections – “shadows” of the perfect sacrifice named Jesus Christ.
One of the ways the old covenant sacrifices revealed their inadequacies was that they needed to be offered regularly. And even though they were offered regularly the people continued to sin. Their guilty consciences were never eased as was evident by the fact that once the atonement on Yom Kippur was accomplished the Israelites still went home guilty of sin. If the old order of animal sacrifices was so good then they would not need to be offered regularly – year after year. But because the animal blood did not cleanse, consciousness of sins remained.
The only thing the old covenant sacrifices did for Israel was to remind them of their sins. The animal blood could not remove sin, but it served as a stark and horrible reminder of sin. This in itself stood in stark contrast to God’s New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus Christ and foretold by the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34). In the old covenant sin was remembered in the regular sacrifices, but in the new covenant sin is forgotten eternally! God not only removes sin in the New Covenant through the one death of His Son, He also remembers sins no more (Heb. 8:12).
So whereas it is impossible for animal blood to atone for man’s sins eternally and bring him into a right relationship with God (v. 4), it IS possible for the blood Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God and the perfect man, to bring man into fellowship with God. What was impossible in the old covenant is now possible in the New Covenant: eternal forgiveness and salvation.
Food for Thought
God wants His children to be reminded of their sins – all of us. Just reading the Ten Commandments is a reminder that we have fallen short of God’s glory. And when we remember our sins we can then be reminded once again of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy in Christ.
Hebrews 10:5-10… Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me; 6 In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. 7 “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’ ” 8 After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Now because it is “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (v. 4), Jesus came into the world to sacrifice himself to make forgiveness of sins possible. So, God established the Law to reveal sin, and sacrifices offered annually were a reminder of sins (v. 3). But since the blood of animals did not actually provide forgiveness for sins (v. 4), God had to provide an avenue of forgiveness. This He did through the death of His Son Jesus Christ (v. 5).
When Jesus came into the world, he fulfilled Psalm 40:6 – a Messianic Psalm written by David. He announced that God “prepared” a body for him. The term means “to produce; to furnish completely.” God the Father summoned His Son and furnished the body needed to clothe Him so that he could die and provide the perfect sacrifice. Therefore, God provided a sacrifice to satisfy His wrath for sin in order to give His creation the forgiveness they needed. He took no pleasure in animal sacrifices, so He actually provided the worship He required (v. 6). And the eternal Son of God came in accordance with the prophecy and fulfilled the Word of God (v. 7).
The author of Hebrews loved to use the OT to solidify his point with his Jewish audience, but he most often used the Septuagint (LXX) to do so – the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT. Now the Hebrew of Psalm 40:6 actually says, “My ears you have opened” (as opposed to “a body you have prepared for me”) showing that the Greek translators translated the Hebrew idiom (“ears you have opened”) so that the Greek readers could understand in their own vernacular. Clearly the Greek translators regarded a part of something (in this case “ears”) as representative of the whole (i.e., the body). After all, ears receive God’s Word which affects the whole body, so they qualified as significant for the whole body. And a body was required for the final sacrifice.
Now when Jesus peformed God’s will in sacrificing himself for the forgiveness of sins, “He takes away” the first order (animal sacrifices) in order to establish the second. Literally, “He kills” the first order – that of killing animals. So what is dead cannot be on par with what is alive. This means that the old covenant of the Jewish system is now worthless. And worthless sacrifices cannot exist alongside the one perfect sacrifice in Christ. One cannot tolerate the other. Once God killed the first order, He “established” the second. He put it in place and authorized the new system through Jesus Christ who is far superior to that which He replaced.
Food for Thought
What Jesus did “once and for all” was “sanctify” believers (v. 10). This perfect tense verb means that Christ made us holy one time and forever. This contrasts all other religions where salvation is sought through works. Now whereas the Apostle Paul spoke of sanctification as the process of growing as a Christian, Hebrews speaks of it as the process which leads to salvation. All believers have a testimony of how God led them to Christ – how He led them to understand that Christ did everything. How freeing it is to know that God did it all, and all to Him we owe.
Hebrews 10:11-18… Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but [Jesus], having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,” He then says, 17 “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
One can almost hear the sarcasm in the author’s voice when he speaks of the Jewish priests who stood daily serving in the tabernacle and temple continually offering blood sacrifices over and over… “time after time the same sacrifices.” But at the end of the day, no matter how many sacrifices had been made, sacrifices “can never take away sins.” This is the inferiority, not only of Judaism, but of all religions whereby one’s works are counted on to make one holy.
The superiority of Jesus Christ, however, is that his sacrifice was offered once, and then he was finished (cf. John 19:30) and sat down. This stands in stark contrast to the priest in v. 11 who “stands daily ministering” because his job is never complete. Jesus, on the other hand, did his job, then he sat down at the right hand of God. This act of sitting had been prophesied by David in Psalm 110:1 where God the Father invited the Son to sit at His right hand. So since sitting is a mark of completed work, Jesus, as the great High Priest of the order of Melchizedek, finished his work and sat down. There were simply no more sacrifices needed to improve on his work or to supplement it. The Jewish high priests couldn’t do it with blood, so Jesus Christ did.
Now while sitting at God’s right hand Jesus waits for his enemies to be made “a footstool for his feet.” Of course his death conquered the devil – “him who had the power of death” (Heb. 2:14), and Christ’s death triumphed over the demonic realm (Col. 2:14-15). In contrast, Jewish sacrifices never defeated anyone! But now Christ awaits the future day when all scoffers will bow their knees to Him (Phil. 2:10) – when they become a footstool for his feet (v. 13).
Verse 14 reveals that Christ’s superior sacrifice for sins made believers perfect. Now obviously this only refers to the salvation of believers, for none is truly perfect in the sense of being entirely sanctified. Christ’s death removed sin forever granting believers total security and assurance of salvation. Believers will still fall into sin on occasion, but Christ’s sacrifice has already made them perfect in that they have nothing else to offer by way of works. So, since “there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin” (v. 18). Forgiveness has been granted; perfection given. Christ’s sacrifice is permanent, as is God’s forgiveness.
God promised the Jews a New Covenant in the OT (Jeremiah 31:31-34) – one where His laws would be branded on their hearts and where forgiveness would be granted freely. Therefore, the Jews could not accept Jeremiah as a prophet but yet reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Doing so would also entail a rejection of the Holy Spirit who testified to this truth (v. 15).
Food for Thought
Most Christians feel that if Christ returned today they’d be in a heap of trouble because they have too many sins in their lives. How sad it is to have to live like that! Jesus came to forgive the sins of those who place their trust in him alone for salvation. You don’t need works for salvation; you need faith – a faith that works. He finished his work. Have you finished yours?
Hebrews 10:19-25… So, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God…
“Therefore” links the exhortation from the previous passage to the present passage. So, since there is now forgiveness in Christ those who have trusted in Him alone for salvation (i.e., the “brethren) now “have the confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (v. 19). The holy place in this context, as opposed to the man-made holy place in the Jewish temple, is the very presence of God. The exhortation is for Christians to enter into God’s presence with “confidence” because the blood of Jesus has paved the way for all who believe to enter.
Part of the New Covenant is the ability to enter into God’s presence boldly (4:16) by a new way – a “living way.” This living way is not like the dead way of animal sacrifices but through the living Christ. There is no more veil that separates God’s presence in the Holy of Holies from the rest of the world. That veil was torn from top to bottom the moment Christ died on the cross (Mark 15:37-38). One might say now that when Christ’s flesh was torn in his death the veil which separated man from God was removed. Jesus’ death opened the way for man to have fellowship with God. This was incomprehensible to the Jews – coming into God’s presence.
Now that the author has developed his point fully concerning Christ’s priesthood, and since He is now reigning “over the house of God,” access to the Almighty is now realized. So Christians are now exhorted to do three things in vv. 22-24. First, Christians are to “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (v. 22). Since the way is paved to enter God’s presence, His presence must be entered into by believers. And they are to do so with sincerity which carries the idea of being true and genuine with no ulterior motive. They also were to come into God’s presence with full assurance of faith, which entails being fully secure in one’s belief that what Christ did on the cross did in fact accomplish eternal salvation. This assurance comes from the sprinkled blood of Christ on the hearts of believers and a conscience washed with the Holy Spirit and publicized by baptism. So in the same way that the Jews relied on the sprinkled animal blood for atonement, Jesus’ sprinkled blood was even better!
Second, believers must “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (v. 23). Since hope is the anchor of the soul (6:19), Christians can and must hold confidently to their hope in Christ because they can aniticipate that God will indeed fulfill all of His promises in a literal way. Since God is true, His children need not waver in hope.
Third, believers must “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (v. 24). “One another” is about fellow believers finding ways to exhort each other to love – “without forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging…” (v. 25). The danger occurs when believers fail to gather together regularly. By forsaking corporate worship they would be unable to stimulate each other to love and to do good works for one another.
Food for Thought
Do you draw near to God daily with full assurance, or do you keep Him at a safe distance? Are you certain of your salvation through the finished work of Christ, or do you doubt? And do you often miss church and group Bible studies for silly reasons? God has done so much, and we do so little, making lame excuses so often for our lack of faith. Let us be about the task of meeting together regularly and stimulating each other to love and good works. No more excuses!
10:1 Σκιὰν γὰρ ἔχων ὁ νόμος τῶν μελλόντων ἀγαθῶν, οὐκ αὐτὴν τὴν
Shadow for having (PAPtcp) the Law of the being about to be (PAPtcp) goods, not same the
εἰκόνα τῶν πραγμάτων, κατʼ ἐνιαυτὸν ταῖς αὐταῖς θυσίαις ἃς
image of the practices, by year in the same sacrifices which
προσφέρουσιν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς οὐδέποτε δύναται τοὺς προσερχομένους
they offer (PAI) to the perpetually but not ever is able (PPI) the ones coming to (PMPtcp)
τελειῶσαι· 2 ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἂν ἐπαύσαντο προσφερόμεναι διὰ τὸ μηδεμίαν
complete (AAIn). Since not they stopped (AMI) being offered (PPPtcp) because the but not one
ἔχειν ἔτι συνείδησιν ἁμαρτιῶν τοὺς λατρεύοντας ἅπαξ
to have (PAIn) still conscious of sin the ones serving (PAPtcp) once
κεκαθαρισμένους; 3 ἀλλʼ ἐν αὐταῖς ἀνάμνησις ἁμαρτιῶν κατʼ ἐνιαυτόν·
having been cleaned (RPPtcp); but in them a remembrance of sins by year.
4 ἀδύνατον γὰρ αἷμα ταύρων καὶ τράγων ἀφαιρεῖν ἁμαρτίας.
Impossible for blood of bulls and of goats to forgive (PAIn) sins.
5 Διὸ εἰσερχόμενος εἰς τὸν κόσμον λέγει· θυσίαν καὶ προσφορὰν οὐκ
Therefore coming into (PMPtcp) the world He says (PAI), “sacrifice and offering not
ἠθέλησας, σῶμα δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι· 6 ὁλοκαυτώματα καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας οὐκ
your will (AAI), body but you put in order (AMI) to me. Whole burnt offerings even upon sin not
εὐδόκησας. 7 τότε εἶπον· ἰδοὺ ἥκω, ἐν κεφαλίδι βιβλίου γέγραπται περὶ ἐμοῦ,
you thought well (AAI). Then I said (AAI), “Look, I come (PAI), in scroll of book it has been written (RPI) of me
τοῦ ποιῆσαι ὁ θεὸς τὸ θέλημά σου. 8 ἀνώτερον λέγων ὅτι θυσίας καὶ
the to do (AAIn) the God the will of you. After saying (PAPtcp) that sacrifices and
προσφορὰς καὶ ὁλοκαυτώματα καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας οὐκ ἠθέλησας οὐδὲ
offerings even whole burnt offerings and about sin not you wanted (AAI) neither
εὐδόκησας, αἵτινες κατὰ νόμον προσφέρονται, 9 τότε εἴρηκεν· ἰδοὺ ἥκω
you thought well (AAI). Which by law they offered (PPI). Then he has said (RPI), behold I come (PAI)
τοῦ ποιῆσαι τὸ θέλημά σου. ἀναιρεῖ τὸ πρῶτον ἵνα τὸ δεύτερον στήσῃ,
to do (AAIn) the will of you. He kills (PAI) the first in order the second might stand (AAS)
10 ἐν ᾧ θελήματι ἡγιασμένοι ἐσμὲν διὰ τῆς προσφορᾶς τοῦ σώματος
In whose desire having been made holy (RPPtcp) we have (PAI) through of the offering of the body
Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐφάπαξ. 11 Καὶ πᾶς μὲν ἱερεὺς ἕστηκεν καθʼ ἡμέραν
of Jesus Christ once for all. And every on behalf of priest has stood (RAI) by day
λειτουργῶν καὶ τὰς αὐτὰς πολλάκις προσφέρων θυσίας, αἵτινες
serving (PAPtcp) and the same frequently offering (PAPtcp) sacrifices, which
οὐδέποτε δύνανται περιελεῖν ἁμαρτίας, 12 οὗτος δὲ μίαν ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν
but not ever is able (PPI) to lift up around (AAIn) sins, this but one on behalf of sins
προσενέγκας θυσίαν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ, 13 τὸ
having offered (AAPtcp) sacrifice into the perpetuity he sat (AAI) in right of the God, the
λοιπὸν ἐκδεχόμενος ἕως τεθῶσιν οἱ ἐχθροὶ αὐτοῦ ὑποπόδιον τῶν
remaining waiting for (PMPtcp) until might be set (APS) the hostile of him footstool of the
ποδῶν αὐτοῦ. 14 μιᾷ γὰρ προσφορᾷ τετελείωκεν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς τοὺς
feet of him. One for offering he has completed (RAI) into the perpetuity the
ἁγιαζομένους. 15 Μαρτυρεῖ δὲ ἡμῖν καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον· μετὰ γὰρ τὸ
ones being made holy (PPPtcp). Testifies (PAI) but to us and the Spirit the Holy with for the
εἰρηκέναι· 16 αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη ἣν διαθήσομαι πρὸς αὐτοὺς μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας
to have spoken (RAIn): This the covenant which I will agree (FMI) to them after the days
ἐκείνας, λέγει κύριος· διδοὺς νόμους μου ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν
those, says (PAI) Lord. Giving (PAPtcp) laws my upon hearts their and on the
διάνοιαν αὐτῶν ἐπιγράψω αὐτούς, 17 καὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν καὶ τῶν
intelligence of them I will write (FAI) them, and of the sins of them and of the
ἀνομιῶν αὐτῶν οὐ μὴ μνησθήσομαι ἔτι. 18 ὅπου δὲ ἄφεσις τούτων, οὐκέτι
lawlessness of them never I will remember (FPI) still. Where but sending off of these no longer
προσφορὰ περὶ ἁμαρτίας. 19 Ἔχοντες οὖν, ἀδελφοί, παρρησίαν εἰς τὴν
offering concerning sin. Having (PAPtcp) therefore, brothers, confidence into the
εἴσοδον τῶν ἁγίων ἐν τῷ αἵματι Ἰησοῦ, 20 ἣν ἐνεκαίνισεν ἡμῖν ὁδὸν
entrance of the holy place in the blood of Jesus, which he made new (AAI) to us a way
πρόσφατον καὶ ζῶσαν διὰ τοῦ καταπετάσματος, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν τῆς σαρκὸς
fresh and living (PAPtcp) through the veil this is (PAI) of the flesh
αὐτοῦ, 21 καὶ ἱερέα μέγαν ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ, 22 προσερχώμεθα μετὰ
of him, and priest great on the house of the God, we might come (PMS) with
ἀληθινῆς καρδίας ἐν πληροφορίᾳ πίστεως ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς καρδίας
true heart in full assurance of faith having been sprinkled (RPPtcp) the hearts
ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς καὶ λελουσμένοι τὸ σῶμα ὕδατι καθαρῷ·
from conscience evil and having been washed (RMPtcp) the body with water clean.
23 κατέχωμεν τὴν ὁμολογίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἀκλινῆ, πιστὸς γὰρ ὁ
We might hold on (PAS) the confession of the hope firmly, faithful for the
ἐπαγγειλάμενος, 24 καὶ κατανοῶμεν ἀλλήλους εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης
one having promised (AMP), and that we might think carefully (PAS) one another into stimulation of love
καὶ καλῶν ἔργων, 25 μὴ ἐγκαταλείποντες τὴν ἐπισυναγωγὴν ἑαυτῶν,
and good works, not forsaking (PAPtcp) the assembling of ourselves,
καθὼς ἔθος τισίν, ἀλλὰ παρακαλοῦντες, καὶ τοσούτῳ μᾶλλον ὅσῳ
just as habit in some, but encouraging (PAPtcp) and to such more as much as
βλέπετε ἐγγίζουσαν τὴν ἡμέραν.
You see (PAI) nearing (PAPtcp) the day.
Is "family time" encroaching on "church time?" Leadership, a publication in the Christianity Today family of magazines, surveyed 490 pastors last year, asking them about church life and family. A major theme -- parents are taking their kids to soccer games rather than to church.
The soccer games are only an illustration, of course, but team sports loom larger and larger in the lives of many kids and families, often leaving little time for anything else.
From the Leadership report:
The phenomenon of overprogrammed kids in the last decade or so is well documented--to the point of satire. (A recent sitcom showed an alien begging off an invasion of Earth because his kid had "a thing.") What isn't so well documented is the effect this legion of extracurricular activities has on church life.
The pastors we surveyed report the overall busyness of families is keeping families away from church. Asked whether people are spending more discretionary time on family activities or church commitments, 76 percent said the scale tipped toward family activities. This contrasts with the perception of 62 percent of respondents that a generation ago, free time was more likely spent on church commitments. The balance has shifted.
Carol Welker, children's ministry pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida, says the impact has been felt especially in weekday programs.
"We stopped doing Wednesday night programs a couple of years ago after they just fell apart," she said. "We did a survey to find out why families stopped coming, and several said, 'That's the one and only night we have together as a family.'"
The rest of the week, often including Sunday morning, is booked with music lessons and sports events. We even hear of pastors who must choose between preaching the Sunday morning sermon and attending Junior's Little League playoff game. Lay people are more regularly opting for non-church activities.
In our survey 83 percent of pastors said they are aware of situations where people routinely choose family events over church commitments. The list of reasons people give for missing church events: kids' activities and weekend trips are cited as most common reasons told to pastors (9 in 10 hear this frequently); grown-up sports such as fishing, football, and NASCAR are next, followed by extended family gatherings (7 in 10 hear these frequently), and a child's illness (almost 6 in 10 hear this reason on a regular basis).
Are these valid reasons or just excuses? "Mostly excuses" said 22 percent of pastors. "Mostly valid" said 13 percent. "Some of both" said 65 percent.
Asked if family time trumping church time is the bigger problem, 61 percent of pastors said yes; only 3 percent said church time was encroaching on family life for their church members. About a third (36%) thought most church members have a good balance.
This is a fascinating look into family life in America, even among Christian families. Let's be honest here -- these families, for the most part, are not spending these additional hours of the week in joint spiritual activities and disciplines. It is not as though "family time" was a time of biblical instruction and spiritual edification. No . . . increasingly it's Little League and NASCAR.
Here is a part of the article many readers might miss:
Welker says the church isn't helping by segregating families once they arrive on campus. "Shouldn't we as a church try to bring families together?" Welker asks. "Instead what we do is bring them to church and then put mom and dad in this room, the high school kids in that room, and the elementary kids down the hall. It's no wonder families are spending more time doing family things than they are spending at church."
Holly Allen agrees. She is an intergenerational studies specialist at John Brown University. Despite recent interest in intergenerational church ministries, the trend of the past two or three decades has been toward age-graded ministries and the further stratification of generations. "In the past, spending family time and going to church were the same thing," Allen said. "Now, family time and church time are not compatible ideas, because families are rarely together when they are at church."
This is a very important insight. When "church time" is seen as a competitor to "family time," something is wrong at church. When family members hardly see each other at church activities, the congregation needs to take a quick inventory of its concept of ministry.
At the same time, when Christian parents take their kids to Little League games rather than worship on the Lord's Day, these parents teach their children that team sports are more important than the worship of God.
Every kid has a "thing" going on virtually all the time. That is the condition of life today, it seems. But when that "thing" keeps the child -- or the whole family -- away from church, we need to name that thing what it is . . . at best a snare, at worst an idol.