THE ONCE-FOR-ALL SACRIFICE OF CHRIST PROVIDES THE ULTIMATE CLEANSING AND FORGIVENESS THAT WAS IMPOSSIBLE UNDER THE OLD COVENANT
This section completes the author’s doctrinal presentation before he launches into practical applications beginning in 10:19. Look at how many times in this passage the author emphasizes the once-for-all character of the sacrifice of Christ. When we fully understand the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice, there should be no temptation to revert to the old covenant sacrificial system. Christ is the supreme and sufficient and clearly superior high priest and His sacrifice is all we need for full and complete and final forgiveness of sins. He has accomplished our ultimate sanctification.
Leon Morris: The preceding sections have brought out the efficacy of the blood of Jesus as a prevailing sacrifice, and now stress is laid on the once-for-all character of that sacrifice.
Hewitt: As the author draws his theological discussion to a close, he recapitulates former truths and makes certain additions to bring out the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice over the ritual system of the old covenant. The sacrifices of the old covenant, though many, were inadequate. Christ’s sacrifice, though one, was fully adequate (1-4). Animal sacrifices could never fulfil God’s will; yet only by the fulfilment of His will could sin be put away. Christ accomplished this (5-10). The high priests stood continually as servants in the holy place, for their work was not finished. The great High Priest sits in God’s presence, for by the one offering of Himself He has finished His work (11-14). Scripture testifies that there is no further need of offerings for sin (15-18).
MacArthur: The sacrifice of Jesus Christ then is effective forever. It is effective for all who believe because it fulfills God’s design. It replaces the old inadequate system. It sanctifies the believer. It removes sin and replaces it with righteousness. It destroys the enemy and all who follow him. It brings with it eternal security and it fulfills the promise of God and thus convinces us of His faithfulness. It is so perfect that nothing can be added to it and all we are ever asked to do is believe in it.
I. (:1-4) INADEQUACY OF REPETITIVE OLD COVENANT ANIMAL SACRIFICES
A. (:1) Catalog of Limitations
1. Represents the Shadow – not the Reality
“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come
and not the very form of things,”
Kent: The contrast is between the law as containing in its sacrificial system only the barest shadow outline of the spiritual truths involved. It was not (nor could it be) the exact replica of what God would do about sin, for no animal nor any other finite creature could convey adequately all that God would do in His program of redemption.
Mohler: The phrase “the good things to come” sums up everything Christ purchased and accomplished for us by virtue of his life, death, and resurrection. The greatest of these good things is the forgiveness of sin. The writer already made this point clear in 9:11-12.
Richard Phillips: Observations about the Old Covenant:
– Continuity exists with the new covenant — The Old Testament is the reality in Christ projected backward, redemptively speaking.
– Its subject matter is Christ. To be sure, it is Christ in shadow form through various types and representatives in the Old Testament. . . a shadow is better understood when the reality is there to be seen.
2. Repeatedly Offered
“by the same sacrifices year by year,
which they offer continually,”
3. Reduced (Restricted) Results
“can never make perfect those who draw near.”
Kent: The passage does not imply that no forgiveness of any sort was possible under the Old Testament system; that was plainly not the case (Lev. 4:20, 26, 31, 35). What is asserted is the absence of any complete or final cleansing.
Constable: “Make perfect” does not mean to make sinless but to make acceptable to God. Jesus Christ provided perfect cleansing for us by His death, as the following verses show.
B. (:2-3) Constant Reminder of Sins and Need for Cleansing
“Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered,”
because the worshipers, having once been cleansed,
would no longer have had consciousness of sins?
But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.”
Leon Morris: the very continuity of the sacrifices witnesses to their ineffectiveness. . . An atonement that needs constant repetition does not really atone; a conscience which has to be cleansed once a year has never been truly cleansed.
C. (:4) Conclusion of Futility
“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Kent: No reflection is cast upon the value of Old Testament sacrifices, as long as they are viewed in proper perspective. What must be remembered is that their atoning value was temporary and typical, depending for their efficacy upon the coming sacrifice of Christ to whom they pointed.
Mohler: The old covenant sacrifices, in all their bloodiness, could not take away sin. Instead, they pointed to the one sacrifice that could bring forgiveness of sin: Jesus Christ. His perfect sacrifice happened once and never needs to be repeated. His blood, unlike that of animals, washes sins away forever.
J. Ligon Duncan: So the grand concluding statement you see in verse 4 is this self-evident assertion that animal blood cannot accomplish forgiveness of sins. It cannot accomplish the cleansing of conscience and it cannot accomplish reconciliation with God. You see what he is saying. He is saying, “Think about it for a minute, people. Do you really think that the shed blood of animals can bring you back into fellowship with God when you have offended against Him morally. And His answer is, “Of course not.” The blood of animals cannot do that, and that is not why God set up the sacrificial system.
II. (:5-10) CHRIST’S SACRIFICE SUPERCEDES THE OT SACRIFICES
A. (:5-7) Christ Voluntarily Took on Humanity
1. (:5) Purpose of the Incarnation = to be the Perfect Lamb of God
“Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,
‘Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired,
But a body Thou hast prepared for Me;’”
Kent: This is a reference to the incarnation as considered as a whole. . . Sacrifice (thusian) refers to the animal victim; offering (prosphoran) denotes the meal or drink offering.
Richard Phillips: Obedience pleases God. He is satisfied by a heart eager to do his will, by a life expressing the character of God set forth in the Ten Commandments . . .
Leon Morris: Now he rounds off this stage of his theme by showing that the Bible proves the correctness of the position he has advocated. Animal sacrifices could not take away the sins of the people. But it was the will of God that sin be atoned for. Christ’s perfect sacrifice of himself fulfills God’s will as animal sacrifices could never do. . . His argument up till now has been the negative one that the animal sacrifices of the old covenant were unavailing. Now he says positively that Christ’s sacrifice, which established the new covenant, was effectual. It really put away sin. And it was foreshadowed in the same passage form Jeremiah.
2. (:6) Pleasing the Father by Way of Propitiation for Sins
“In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
Thou hast taken no pleasure.”
Kent: The next clause contains a Hebrew parallelism, but the terms are not completely synonymous. Whole burnt offerings (holokautomata) describes the voluntary sacrifices brought to the tabernacle by grateful worshipers. Sacrifices for sin (peri hamartias) were the required sin and trespass offerings. This last pair has represented the two classes of offerings as to their function.
3. (:7) Perseverance in Accomplishing the Revealed Will of the Father
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come
(In the roll of the book it is written of Me)
To do Thy will, O God.’”
Hewitt: Psalm cx was used to show the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over the Levitical priesthood. Jeremiah xxxi was quoted to indicate that the covenant of Sinai was superseded by the better covenant; and Psalm xi is now employed to prove that the sacrifice of a rational and spiritual being is more excellent than the sacrifice of dumb creatures.
B. (:8-10) Christ Transitioned the Sacrificial System to the Efficacious, Once-for-all Offering of Himself
1. (:8) Rejection of Old Covenant Sacrificial System
“After saying above, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast not desired, nor hast Thou taken pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the Law),”
Hewitt: God had no pleasure in a sacrifice of dumb animals which was unaccompanied by the repentance, faith and self-dedication of the offerer.
Leon Morris: We should see the statement concerning the necessity of sacrifice as another illustration of the attitude consistently maintained by the author that the OT system is divinely inspired but preliminary. He holds it to be effective but only within its own limited scope. The sacrifices were commanded in God’s law and therefore must be offered. But they were not God’s final will nor God’s answer to the problem of sin. They were partial and they pointed the way. Even though they came as part of the law, we are to recognize their limitation.
2. (:9) Transition to New Covenant Sacrifice of Christ
“then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Thy will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second.”
3. (:10) Accomplishment of Ultimate Sanctification by His Once-for-all Sacrifice
“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Kent: This sanctification is objective and judicial, for it was accomplished by Christ through His death. It denotes the act of God which “set apart” (literal meaning of hagiazo) believers form the spiritual contamination they had and the condemnation which they deserved to a perfect position before God, so that they are acceptable to Him. This is the status of every Christian, and for this reason they are frequently termed haigioi (saints) in the New Testament. (This does not describe present or practical sanctification, which is to be progressively developed in believers’ lives.)
III. (:11-14) CHRIST AS THE PRIEST WHO SITS SUPERCEDES THE LEVITICAL PRIESTS WHO CONTINUALLY STAND AND MINISTER
A. (:11) Inadequacy of Levitical Priests with Their Repetitive Animal Sacrifices
“And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time
the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;”
B. (:12-13) Efficacy of Christ’s Once-for-all Sacrifice
1. (:12) Efficacy Authenticated by His Enthronement
“but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time,
sat down at the right hand of God,”
Leon Morris: “sat down” — The author is combining with the thought of a finished work the idea that our Lord is a being of the highest dignity and honor.
2. (:13) Efficacy Consummated by His Eschatological Triumph
“waiting from that time onward
until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.”
C. (:14) Accomplishment of Ultimate Sanctification by Christ’s Once-for-all Sacrifice
“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
Kent: This verse summarizes the discussion just preceding. Christ’s one offering was sufficient for all time. This is why He is able to sit at the Father’s right hand, for His task is finished and was fully successful.
F. F. Bruce: Three outstanding effects are thus ascribed to the sacrifice of Christ:
– by it His people have had their conscience cleansed from guilt;
– by it they have been fitted to approach God as accepted worshippers;
– by it they have experienced the fulfilment of what was promised in earlier days, being brought into that perfect relation to God which is involved in the new covenant
IV. (:15-18) ADEQUACY OF CHRIST’S ONCE-FOR-ALL SACRIFICE FOR SINS – SUPPORTED BY OT PROPHECY
A. (:15-16a) Regarding the Superiority of the New Covenant
1. (:15a) Testimony of the Holy Spirit
“And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us”
F. F. Bruce: the Holy Spirit’s confirmation of the conclusion to which our author’s argument has just led him. The new covenant, according to Jeremiah’s prophecy, not only involved the implanting of God’s laws, together with the will and power to carry them out, in the hearts of His people; it also conveyed the assurance that their past sins and iniquities would be eternally blotted out form God’s record, never to be brought up in evidence against them.
2. (:15b-16a) Internal Knowledge and Empowerment
“for after saying, ‘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 upon their mind I will write them,’”
Remember, it was the external nature of the old covenant and its inability to empower the people to obey God’s commands that proved to be its main limitation. There needed to be a way to deal with finality with man’s sin problem and need for cleansing and forgiveness.
B. (:16b-18) Regarding the Final Resolution of the Sin Problem
1. (:16b-17) Complete and Final Forgiveness of Sins
“He then says, ‘And their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more.’”
2. (:18) Complete and Final Sacrifice for Sins
“Now where there is forgiveness of these things,
there is no longer any offering for sin.”