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What a Supreme Treasure We Have in Christ
(Chapter 1 Verse 1 to Chapter 10 Verse 18)
Hebrews chapter 10 verses 5-10
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, O God.’”
First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Again we see how the author uses the Old Testament Scriptures to prove his point. Again we have to marvel at how he under the Spirit’s guidance sees Christ in that Old Testament. This time he quotes Psalm 40 verses 6-8, used only here in the New Testament. In those words of David, the author heard the Messiah, great David’s greater Son, speaking. It’s a beautiful conversation that the Son carried on with the Father.
“When Christ came into the world” refers to his entire incarnation and describes his constant attitude toward his Father during that time. Repeating the words for emphasis, the Messiah points out clearly what the Father did not desire. Sacrifices of any kind—whether animal sacrifices or meat and drink offerings, whether voluntary “burnt offerings” that thankful people brought to the tabernacle or the required “sin offerings”—were not what the Father desired. Rivers of animal blood and mountains of animal carcasses were not what God really wanted, though he had commanded them in the law. Also, God could not be pleased with just the outward repetition of such sacrifices if willing, obedient hearts were not behind them. What God desired was that to which all those Old Testament sacrifices pointed, the willing sacrifice of his Son.
“A body you prepared for me” refers to this willing sacrifice. The footnote in the NIV Bible indicates that the author favors the Septuagint translation of Psalm 40 verse 6. In the Hebrew it reads, “My ears you have pierced,” referring to ears opened and made responsive to God’s will, while the Septuagint paraphrases the thought to a body prepared to follow God’s will. However we translate, the thought is the same—a Messiah lovingly, obediently, perfectly following the Father’s will, a Messiah who says, “Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.” Wherever we unroll the Old Testament scroll, we find reference to the Son’s wholehearted delight in carrying out his Father’s will. God’s will was that his Son would make full and final sacrifice for sin, and the Son’s will perfectly agreed.
In one of our Lenten hymns, we have the flavor of this heavenly conversation beautifully captured: “‘Go forth, my Son,’ the Father said, ‘and free my children from their dread of guilt and condemnation. The wrath and stripes are hard to bear, but by your passion they will share the fruit of your salvation.’ ‘Yes, Father, yes, most willingly I’ll bear what you command me. My will conforms to your decree; I’ll do what you have asked me.’ O wondrous Love, what have you done! The Father offers up his Son, desiring our salvation” (CW 100 verses 2 and 3).
Could those Jewish Christians miss the point? This quotation from David’s psalm with the heavenly conversation it contained emphatically showed that Christ “sets aside the first to establish the second.” The Levitical sacrifices have been abolished. Christ’s sacrifice, willed by the Father and agreed to by the Son, has taken their place. To go back to what has been abolished or even to claim equal place for it would be eternal folly. It is Christ’s sacrifice for sin or nothing.
With a compact summary again referring to Christ’s sacrifice and its effects, the author ends this paragraph. Once more he refers to God’s “will,” which Christ came to do and which is described as “the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Earlier, the author had described Christ’s sacrifice as “himself” and “his blood.” Here it is his “body,” because the same word was used in verse 5 and also because the shedding of blood involved the body in the sacrifice.
As in chapter 7 verse 27, he describes this willing sacrifice as “once for all,” valid for all time with no repetition necessary or possible. And the blessed results? “We have been made holy,” he says. Those whom God brings to faith are spotless in his eyes. Not one shred of contamination clings to them; not one ounce of condemnation weighs upon them. They are the “saints” of whom the New Testament speaks. “But,” the author reminds his readers, “such an exalted position comes only through Christ’s sacrifice. Look at him!”
Hebrews chapter 10 verses 11-14
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Again the author stresses the finality of Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sin. The old covenant had an unending round of sacrifices that left sin untouched and consciences unrelieved. Not only did the high priest have to bring the same offering year after year on the Day of Atonement, so did the common priests day after day. Every morning and evening, as Numbers chapter 28 verses 3-8 relates, the common priest, assigned to that task for the day, was to offer a one-year-old unblemished male lamb, along with a grain offering of 1/10 ephah of fine flour mixed with 1/4 hin of olive oil, plus a drink offering of 1/4 hin of wine. Twice a day the priest stood there, day after day, with the same sacrifices. What clearer indication could there be that such sacrifices could “never take away sins”? Animal blood and grain offerings were unable to strip away sin’s guilt, which like a cloak had wrapped itself around the sinner.
Israel’s priests stood constantly at work bringing the same sacrifices and yet never removing sin. In sharp contrast, our High Priest “offered for all time one sacrifice for sins” and with that one sacrifice totally effective “sat down at the right hand of God.” The author has come full circle. Back in chapter 1 verse 3 he had already written, “After he [the Son] had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Now he repeats this glorious thought.
In heaven in all glory and honor, our High Priest, whose perfect sacrifice was laid on the altar of the cross, now points to that completed sacrifice as the basis for his pleading for us when we sin. Romans chapter 8 verse 34 shows the sequence, “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” With the ascended Savior as our lawyer, the believer’s case in heaven’s court is eternally secure.
Let his enemies, though, be warned. The Lord is waiting for the time when all who oppose him will be “made his footstool.” On that Last Day, as described in Philippians chapter 2 verses 10-11, every knee will bow before him and every tongue will confess that he is Lord. Who would want to stand at that day among his enemies, quaking with abject fear because of his splendor and because of the horrible awareness of having rejected the only Savior?
Once more the author emphasizes, “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” “Made perfect” he writes this time, using one of his favorite words. In chapter 2 verse 10, 5 verse 9, 10 verse 14, 11 verse 40, and 12 verse 23 he uses the verb. In chapter 6 verse 1, 7 verse 11, and 12 verse 2 it is the noun, and in chapter 9 verse 11, the adjective, always with the thought of completeness in mind. In this verse it is the thought of man being brought to the completeness that God had in mind for him. Peace and pardon, harmony and heaven were God’s goal for man. Believers, or as the author calls them, “those who are being made holy,” have been brought to this blessed goal. The present tense “are being made holy” reminds us how, one after the other, the Spirit through the gospel sets men free from sin and for service to their loving God. “But,” the author again reminds his readers, “the goal of holiness comes only through Christ’s sacrifice. Look at him!”
Hebrews chapter 10 verses 15-18
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
“This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
Another witness to the finality of Christ’s perfect sacrifice is the Holy Spirit. He “also testifies to us about this,” the author writes. Note the present tense “testifies,” reminding us that the Spirit not only authored what was written in the past but also witnesses through it in the present. So also with the quotation from Jeremiah chapter 31. Earlier in chapter 8, the author, under the Spirit’s guidance, had quoted Jeremiah chapter 31 verses 31-34 to establish that God would replace the old covenant with a new one. Here only verses 33 and 34 are used, in abbreviated and modified form, to show that the main theme in that new covenant would be complete remission of sins. The new covenant involved an inward change of man. His heart would be regenerated so that it would know and willingly follow God’s law.
But above all, in that new covenant, man’s sins and violations of God’s laws would be completely removed. “I will remember [them] no more,” God promised. God’s holy justice does not practice selective memory so that only some sins are recalled, nor does it suffer from amnesia so that other sins are forgotten. God’s justice sees all sins and demands that every one of them be punished. And that is what God’s love and mercy did through Christ. With Christ’s body broken and Christ’s blood shed on the cross, God’s love paid for all sin. Such is the cause of God’s blessed forgetfulness of our sins. So the Spirit testified already in the Old Testament and constantly does in the New Testament.
Again we have that concluding reference to Christ’s perfect sacrifice. “And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” When God has totally sent away our sins, when he has forgiven and forgotten them because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, why talk any more about or look for additional sacrifice for sin? Let the talk be about hearts appreciating that perfect sacrifice, lives offered to him in grateful praise, and efforts rekindled to spreading it to others. Let the motto be for us as for the author and his first readers, “We don’t need anything else for salvation. Christ is our perfect Savior. Look at him.”
If we have no conviction of sin, this doctrinal portion of Hebrews will have meant little to us. He whose shoulders feel no weight seeks no relief, nor do healthy-feeling men look for a doctor. But if sin is something real to us, if the skeletons of past sins rattle in the closet of our conscience, if each night on our pillow the day passes in rather sordid review in spite of our best efforts, if we have ripped off the tinfoil from our inner being and recoiled at what we found there, then the walk through Hebrews chapter 1 verse 1 to chapter 10 verse 18 will have been a blessed experience for us. Then we’ll agree, What a supreme treasure we have in Christ!
End of Part 1.10