Hebrews 10:1-25 “Out Of The Shadows"

We have seen how the old system of sacrifices under the law of Moses was simply a sketch, a shadow, a dim preview of the true form of the good things to come.

One analogy I saw was that of casting a mold for a sculpture. The mold holds the shape, but it’s the thing that will fill the mold for which everyone is waiting. The Old Covenant, the old system, was the mold holding the shape of the good things to come. Jesus filled it; now the mold is no longer necessary. 

Notice that it doesn’t mean the shape cast by the old form is gone; the Old Covenant still teaches us very important things about God and His expectations for His people. Paul said it was God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) and acted as a guardian or teacher to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). There is a timeless form to godliness, a shapeliness (to use the language of how agape love is described) that was preserved by the Old Covenant as it waited for the mold to be filled with the perfect expression of it.

Since it is not the perfect form of these ultimate realities, the offering year after year of these imperfect sacrifices cannot bring those who come forward to worship to the conclusion of the process of being cleansed perfectly from their sin. If you think of them as running a race toward holiness, they can never reach the end. They will never cross the finish line. Their ‘sin offerings’ to cleanse themselves from ritual impurity were never sufficient.[1]

 If the sacrifices had actually been able to achieve this purpose, wouldn’t the repetition of these sacrifices have become unnecessary? If they had worked—and cleansed the worshipers—then one sacrifice would have taken away guilt, and their self-judging consciousness would have been clear and clean.But these sacrifices actually remind us that we sin again and again, year after year. We know we are not free from impurity and guilt. 

I learned a strange thing after my heart attack. The very process of taking pills can take a toll on the pill taker. It did for me early on (though not anymore_. Every time I took pills for the first year it was a subtle reminder: “You had a heart attack.” That act of remembering matters. It’s so significant that, unless the pills are really important, that ritual of remembering might (in some cases) be more detrimental than not taking the pills. The sacrifices reminded them, over and over, “You are not okay. You are sick with sin. And you will be back next year and next year for the rest of your life. You will never be able to do enough to be good enough to be acceptable to God.”

Have ever seen someone who has a compulsive obsession with being clean? They soap, and they scrub, and it is never good enough. They areclean, but they don’t realize how clean they are. There is a spiritual version of this: we soap and scrub (we do devotions, we pray, we tithe, we volunteer at church, we do missions, we only absorb Christian entertainment, we give to every noble cause) to make ourselves clean because we just sense we are never not dirty.And while all those things I listed are fine, they will never make us clean. The very ritual reminds us every day of this.   

In the end, the blood of bulls and of goats made people temporarily acceptable enough to enter into God’s presence, but those sacrifices were powerless to take away the guilt of our sins. So when Jesus came into the world, He said, “Sacrifices and offerings were not what You wanted, but instead you have given me a body that You prepared for Me. Burnt offerings and sin offerings were not what pleased You…See, I have come to do Your will, God, as it is inscribed of Me in the scroll of the book (Psalm 40).”

Now when it says that God doesn’t want and takes no real pleasure in sacrifices, burnt offerings, and sin offerings (even though the law of Moses calls for them), and follows this with “See, I have come to do Your will,”He effectively takes away the first covenant—animal sacrifice—in order to establish the second, more perfect covenantal sacrifice. 10 This was God’s will: we are made holy, purified and sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus the Anointed - and this one time sacrifice lasts for all time.

God’s final goal for sacrifice was never for us to sacrifice animals for our wrongs. The plan always was the sacrifice of the Lawgiveron behalf of the Lawbreaker. We see this in Jesus, where God incarnated (took on a bodily form) and sacrificed himself to pay the penalty of those who had wronged Him. 

This goes back to the covenant with Abraham, where God passed through the dismembered animals to show that he alone would pay the penalty if humanity broke the covenant. Those who passed through said, basically: “If this covenant is broken, may it be done to me what was done to these animals.” It was a classic way covenants were confirmed in the Ancient Near East. 

Remember, Hebrews has already pointed out how much greater Jesus is than Abraham. Here we see it again: Jesus pays the debt that Abraham and his descendants owe. He will be broken and spilled out for the debt that the children of Abraham cannot pay. That is the body that God prepared; that is the offering that pleases Him, that satisfies His righteous judgment. 

11 In the first covenant, every day every officiating priest stands at his post serving, offering over and over those same sacrifices that can never take away sin. 12 But after this priest, Jesus, stepped up to offer His single sacrifice for all sins for all time, He confirmed hisposition of honor, at the highest place of dominion and power: at the “right hand of God.” 13 Since then, He has been waiting for the day the psalmist described: “The Lord (the Father) said unto my Lord (the Son), Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies thy footstool." [2]

This is the language of conquerors putting their feet on the necks of their subdued enemies. You see this numerous times in the Old Testament and countless times in secular history of the time. In other words, Jesus wins. There will come a day when the reign of Christ is fulfilled. All that is evil will bow; for the children of God entering into the eternal Kingdom of God, all that is bad will be undone. 

14 With one perfect offering, Jesus has made a way to perfect forever, in the world to come, those who are now being made holy. Now they have the promise that they will one day finish the race toward holiness. 15 The Holy Spirit testified about this through the prophet Jeremiah:[3]

16 “I will make this kind of covenant with the people of Israel after that time: I will put My laws in their hearts and write them upon their minds; 17 I will not keep their sins in the front of my mind in order to punish them, because Jesus has paid their penalty; they will be absolved of their guilt, as though their sins had never existed.”18 When there is forgiveness such as this, there is no longer any need to make another offering for sin.

This is not a promise that Jesus gets amnesia and literally forgets our sins. That would mean we remember something God doesn’t, and that’s not possible. God isn’t looking at my life and seeing huge blanks spots and thinking, “I wonder what happened there?” It simply means Jesus has made it possible for God to look at those sins and not demand we pay the price of justice, because Jesus did it for us. He does not ‘hold it against us.’

I hope you have had this experience practically to get just a glimpse of what God has done for us. 

· Someone has wronged you, and they apologized, and it’s all good. A while later they apologize again and you say, “Dude, I don’t even think about it anymore. You are carrying a burden I’m not.” 

· Or maybe you have been the one who keeps remembering that you hurt someone with your sin, and when you bring it up again, they say, “I’d forgotten about that.”

This isn’t a perfect analogy, but it’s the general idea. The event has no power on the one who was sinned against. It’s…gone. It’s over. There is nothing to revisit. There is no punishment waiting. “It is finished,” to quote Jesus on the cross.

19 So, my friends, Jesus by His blood gives us courage to enter the most Holy Place. 20 He has created for us a new and living way through the curtain that separated us from that Holy Place; that is, his death has torn the veil. 

Literally, there was a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from everything else. When Jesus died, the gospels record that the temple curtain was torn in half. Now all can enter in. 

Now we are sanctified, and we all can enter in. 21 Since we have a great High Priest who presides over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with true hearts full of faith, with hearts sprinkled with the blood of Jesus’ atonement that cleanses us of a conscience that relentlessly reminds us of our guilt, and with bodies cleansed with the pure water of the grace of Christ,[4]not simply consecrated water from a bowl, to cleanse us.[5]

In summary: Jesus has filled the mold of the Great High Priest. The real deal is here; He tears the temple veil that kept the commoners from the Holy of Holies and takes us with Him into the holiest place, the presence of God; He provides the ritual purification needed: His blood of atonement instead of the blood of other sacrifices; His washing of grace instead of water from a bowl; This makes our hearts clean, not just our skin. Now the cleansing is inside us, not a temporary bath but an engraving in our hearts and minds. An engraving won’t wash off or fade away. Now, it’s part of who we are.

23 Let us hold strong to the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful. 24 Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater (agape) love and to righteous deeds, 25 remembering to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the Day approaches.[6]

Now we get to the results. With all these realities in mind about what Jesus has done for us, what kind of response do we offer in gratitude and obedience? What is God’s plan for the effectiveness of his death not just in us, but around us?

1. Hold strongto the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful. 

The image is that of holding a ship steady in the midst of a storm. The ‘confession of hope’ carries the idea of a group consensus – in this case, think of the New Testament creeds we have talked about before.[7]What we hold to does not waver; embed yourself in a church community that holds to Christ; we will not be blown about by “winds of doctrine”[8]and we will remain steady in the storms of life.[9]  

2. Inspire each otherto greater (agape) love and to righteous deeds

‘Inspire’ can also be translated ‘provoke’ – jab someone until they respond. There is passion involved here; an incitement to do something. We are to incite ‘agape’ love and beautiful, noble deeds, the kind that are winsome and appealing, the kind that people of honorable character do. Corban Shaw has a great way of doing this. When we are in a group  talking about something God is challenging us on, Corban can’t seem to let it go without asking, “So what are you doing to do about it this week?” That’s provoking in the best way – inciting us to do something, not just talk about it. 

3. Gather as a communityand encourage each other. We’ve been talking about this a lot the last month, but…here it is again. It comes up a lot in the Bible. Think about the context here. 

·     Jesus is the Great High Priest who has paid the price for our sins. 

·     We now have courage to enter into the Holy Place.

·     We are cleansed from the inside out. 

·     We have forgiveness, and freedom, and hope. Hooray! Now what?!?!?! 

·     Gather as a community. 

I think it’s because the community helps us to hold strong to the faith, and it’s where we rub shoulder with those we need to inspire to agape love.  

This is a noble calling. ‘Encourage’ is from “paraklete,’which is also a way in which the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our paraklete  (advocate) between us and God; we are advocates for each other. In other words, the Holy Spirit is for us and works on our behalf; in community, we mirror the work of the Holy Spirit as we work on behalf of each other. 

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[1]If “Blood of Bulls & Goats” Can’t Forgive Sins, Why All the OT Bloodshed?

https://blog.logos.com/2017/05/blood-bulls-goats-cant-forgive-sins-ot-bloodshed/

[2]Psalm 110:1. 

[3]Jeremiah 31

[4]“And our bodies washed with pure water; not baptismal water, but the grace of the Spirit, which is often compared to water, in Scripture…” – Gill’s Exposition Of The Entire Bible
 “…it indicates generally the thoroughness of the cleansing process undergone by one who surrenders himself, soul, body, and spirit, to God.”- Vincent’s Word Studies

The high priest, before he entered into the inner tabernacle, or put on his holy garments, was to wash his flesh in water,  Leviticus 16:4, and the Levites were to be cleansed the same way,  Numbers 8:7. The apostle probably alludes to this in what he says here, though it appears that he refers principally to baptisms, the washing by which was an emblem of the purification of the soul by the grace and Spirit of Christ; but it is most likely that it is to the Jewish baptisms, and not the Christian, that the apostle alludes.” – Adam Clarke

I am picking and choosing my commentary quotes.Other commentators believe this passage demands baptism as a means of purification. If you google this passage and add the word “commentary,” you can read for yourself. For me, it’s hard to see that the act of baptism is salvific in some sense, as the whole passage is demonstrating that what Jesus has done is the fulfillment of all the things the rituals tried to do, and is enough.  

[5]“And our bodies washed with pure water - It was common for the Jews to wash themselves, or to perform various ablutions in their services; see Exodus 39:4Exodus 30:19-21Exodus 40:12Leviticus 6:27Leviticus 13:54Leviticus 13:58Leviticus 14:8-9Leviticus 15:16Leviticus 16:4Leviticus 16:24Leviticus 22:6; compare the notes on Mark 7:3. The same thing was also true among the pagan. There was usually, at the entrance of their temples, a vessel placed with consecrated water, in which, as Pliny says (Hist. Nat. lib. 15:c. 30), there was a branch of laurel placed with which the priests sprinkled all who approached for worship. It was necessary that this water should be pure, and it was drawn fresh from wells or fountains for the purpose. – Barnes’ Notes On The Bible

[6]Death, or the destruction of Jerusalem, or the Second coming. The meaning is not clear. It was apparently something the early church understood with no further explanation. 

[7]“Creeds In The Bible” http://www.prayerfoundation.org/dailyoffice/creeds_in_the_bible.htm

[8]Ephesians 4:14

[9]Matthew 7:24-27