When I first heard from our elders about FRC Shopping Mall’s sudden decision to cancel our monthly rental agreement, I was shocked. I was at the office that time and even during meetings I cannot concentrate because my mind is somewhere else. I was discouraged and needed encouragement. We just settled in after spending a month renovating the place and just like that we need to move again. It was frustrating and disorienting.
By God’s grace, I received comfort by reading and learning from God’s Word. Today, we continue with our study of the book of Hebrews to learn how God accomplished and applied redemption to his people. This book is a comforting book to read during times of trials and troubles. It helps re-orient our minds towards our Triune God and his redemptive work. It reassures our hearts with his promise of perseverance in this life. So I invite everyone to focus on God’s Word this morning. We will read through chapter 10, from verses 1 to 25. In it, we will hear about Christ’s complete and perfect atoning work, the application of this redemption in the lives of his people and the encouragement each receives knowing our salvation is secure and God will preserve them until the end. Our topic is divided into two major points: (1) The One Sacrifice That Paid it All; and (2) Living as Forgiven and Holy Congregation.
First Main Point: The One Sacrifice That Paid It All
Our first major point summarizes for us verses 1-18 of chapter 10. In here, the preacher of Hebrews develops his point in three steps. Step 1 looks into the law and how it is unable to save us. Step 2 looks into Christ and how he fulfilled what the law demands. Step 3 explains how this work is applied to his people. In sum, he explains for us the cause of our salvation namely what Christ has accomplished and how the Holy Spirit applies its effect to us his people. And by comparing the types and shadows of the old covenant and the reality that comes with the new, he points us to Christ’s perfect atoning work and explains how believers live under this new covenant reality.
Let us read the first step in his first major point.
Verses 1-4: “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”From the Preacher of Hebrews, chapter 10
Summary: The law covenant does not save rather it convicts us of our sins.
- shadow – type which means a reality displayed in temporary forms
- sacrifices – refers to those required by ceremonial law, specifically Day of Atonement
God’s saving work first came in the form of types and shadow. The law covenant pictures for us what is required for our salvation. However, the picture themselves cannot save or “make perfect those who draw near”. Why? Because back then the sacrifices are repeated. It was supposed to remove the guilt of sin yet sadly, it becomes a constant reminder of their sinfulness. The blood of the animals does not work to clear the consciences of those under its covenant.
Relationship to the Catechism
Lord’s Day 2 establishes the same point. The law is identified as means of knowing our sin and misery (Q#2). It only convicts us of our sins but lacks the power to save us from it. Instead, the law further reminds us of our inability to save ourselves from sin (Q#4). The law points to our need of a savior.
Again we ask the question, if the law cannot save so what or who can? Let us read the second step of the first major point.
Verses 5-7: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”From the Preacher of Hebrews, chapter 10
Summary: Christ offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin. His active and passive obedience earned salvation for his people.
The preacher of Hebrews quoted here Psalms 40. David wrote this psalm and the preacher of Hebrews draws from his prophetic pronouncement the messianic work of God’s Son. So instead quoting David himself, the preacher explicitly wrote these words as if it was coming from the mouth of Christ, a descendant of David, who was incarnated. God’s Son added human flesh (body and soul) to his person. By obeying God’s will, Christ offered himself as a better sacrifice for sins. His obedience merits salvation for his people.
The phrase “a body you have prepared for me” from Hebrews 10 is different from Psalms 40 where it says: “you have given me an open ear.” or literally it reads: “ears you have dug for me”. Now the difference in translation is due to the source used. The preacher of Hebrews uses the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament while Psalms 40 translate directly from the Hebrew text. Now by recognizing the book of Hebrews as canonical, inspired and inerrant Scripture, its translation offers clarity and unity in the intended meaning of the text. Both their meaning is harmonized.
Animals did not volunteer to sacrifice themselves for sin. These ceremonies itself does not remove sin rather it points to God’s requirement of obedience. God desire willful offering of the oneself to God. He requires devotion to his will. Only Christ satisfied this requirement. We can interpret the body or even a part of a body (i.e. ears) as visible and tangible offering made by God’s Son in history. Christ offered himself to obey his Father before the foundation of the world and his incarnation signified his humiliation. By voluntary submitting to his Father’s will, God accepted his perfect obedient sacrifice.
Cross reference to a text with the same message
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”Acts 13:36-39
Christ saves is the second step to his first major point. How so? The preacher explains this in detail on his third step. He does it also in three parts. The first and second parts establish his minor point while the third makes a conclusion fitted to transition to our second main point. Let us read through them.
Verses 8-9: “When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” – new fulfilled the old
Verses 10-14: “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” – it is a finished work
Verses 15-18: “And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” – it is applied completely to his people
Summary: Christ’s atoning work grounds our justification and sanctification.
The preacher pivots from doctrine to practice. After forcefully arguing Christ is better than the temple, the priests and lawful sacrifices of the old covenant, he applies these realities Christ accomplished for his people. The two benefits applied to us as Christians are justification and sanctification.
The offerings mentioned in verses 8-9 are all Levitical sacrifices.
The picture of the priest standing signify an unfinished work while Christ sitted at the right hand of God pictures for us a complete and perfect work (verses 10-14).
The verses quoted in 15-18 where the Holy Spirit speaks came from Jeremiah 31. The preacher quotes Scriptures as if a person of the Triune God speaks it. It is a powerful way of showing Scripture as inspired by God. It also demonstrates for us how the Triune God is active in all aspects of his work in redemption.
The new covenant fulfills the old covenant. Christ’s obedient sacrifice of himself rendered the ceremonial lawful sacrifices obsolete (verses 8-9). His atoning work satisfied the lawful penalty of sin. It is a complete and perfect sacrifice (verses 10-14). It guarantees our justification, sanctification, as well as our glorification (verse 15-18).
That completes the first major point. The doctrine of Christ atoning work accomplishes the redemption of God’s people and by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit it is applied to us. How then we should live in light of this reality? Verses 19-25 applies it for us and this our second main point.
Second Main Point: Living as a Forgiven Holy Congregation
Verses 19-25: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
“Whenever you see a ‘therefore’ in the Bible, you have to see what it is ‘there for’!
Because Christ’s accomplished our redemption and the Holy Spirit applies them effectually to his people, our salvation is secure. In light of this Triune reality, we live our lives here on earth in full assurance of faith, confident in our hope, and active in our love to another another.
Faith is the ground of all virtues. Our union with Christ, his death, resurrection, and ascension as our Great High Priest, enables us to live in hope and love. In him, we can draw near to God because Christ and his Spirit enable us to do so; we hold fast to him, we encourage one another in love, and as a result, persevere in the end.
The preacher of Hebrews exhort his readers by making the connection between faith, hope and love. He did it by laying down his exhortations using the words ‘Let us’. It is a collective appeal to live in the light of what has been said previously in our doctrine of atonement.
Faith: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” – this is true faith sealed by the Holy Spirit signified in our baptism
Hope: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” – this is our assurance, God is faithful
Love: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – this is our duty before God to persevere in the end because He will keep preserve us until the end
Conclusion and Exhortation
ZCRC (Imus), as a congregation living in these last days like the receivers of the book of Hebrews, we are encouraged by God’s Word. Our doctrine of justification by faith gives confidence in our walk with God. It assures us of our salvation and provides comfort in the midst of trials and troubles. We hear his mighty work of redemption from the preaching of God’s Word and we receive its application from God’s Spirit. Remember God accomplished everything for our salvation and as Christians, we persevere in the end because He is alone preserves us. Let us draw near, let us hold fast, let us encourage one another. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.