ONLY THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST UNDER THE NEW COVENANT CAN CLEANSE THE CONSCIENCE AND OBTAIN ETERNAL REDEMPTION
Having clearly set forth the limitations of the Old Covenant, the author of Hebrews is now prepared to turn our attention back to the great high priest of the New Covenant who serves after the order of Melchizedek. Only Christ serves in the heavenly tabernacle. Only Christ has offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice so that the shedding of His blood can address our sin and guilt problem once-for-all to obtain for us eternal salvation. Only Christ can cleanse our inner man and so transform us that we have the privilege of serving and worshiping the true God instead of continuing on in the futility of our dead works.
Derek Thomas: This passage is describing for us a “how much more” argument. It’s drawing a contrast (actually several contrasts) between worship under the old covenant and worship under the new covenant; worship that involved tents, tabernacles, temples, outer courts, inner courts, the sacrifice of animals, the shedding of blood, ritual cleansing….and the blood of Jesus.
Robert Haldane: In all respects the ministry of our great High Priest is superior to the service of the Mosaic high priest. Jesus is a High Priest of good things to come, not of things present which are seen and temporal, but of those which are unseen and eternal. He ministers in a greater and more perfect tabernacle, Hebrews 8:2; He entered once for all into the most holy place, even heaven itself, having obtained eternal redemption for us. So glorious is His sacrifice that it neither requires nor admits of being repeated. It secures eternal redemption for all for whom it was offered. The Jewish sacrifices could only remove ceremonial uncleanness. The most solemn sacrifice, that on the great day of atonement, had only respect to sins committed during the preceding year; but the sacrifice of Christ hath removed all our sin from us as far as East is distant from the West. When the sins of those for whom the sacrifice of our great High Priest was offered are sought for, they shall not be found. He offered one sacrifice which never can be repeated, because it hath fully satisfied justice, answering all the demands of the law, so that Jesus proclaimed on the Cross, “It is finished” —eternal redemption is now secured to all the Israel of God. As the Jewish high priest bore the names of all the tribes on his shoulders and breastplate when he entered with the blood of the sin offering into the holiest of all, the names of the true Israel are engraved on His heart, and His intercession for them is founded on His having magnified and made honorable the law which they had broken. Such is the unity between Him and them that they all died in His death, rose in His resurrection, and are seated with Him in heavenly places.
I. (:11a) BETTER HIGH PRIEST USHERING IN BETTER TIMES
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come,”
F. F. Bruce: But now the time of reformation has arrived; what used to be “the good things to come” (ARV) are now “the good things that have come” (RSV). For Christ has appeared, and in Him the shadows have given way to the perfect and abiding reality. And His appearance is properly announced with a triumphant trumpet flourish; His entrance into the presence of God is not a day of soul-affliction and fasting, like the Day of Atonement under the old legislation, but a day of gladness and song, the day when Christians celebrate the accession of their Priest-King.
Albert Barnes: The apostle having described the tabernacle, and shown wherein it was defective in regard to the real wants of sinners, proceeds now to describe the Christian system, and to show how that met the real condition of man, and especially how it was adapted to remove sin from the soul. The phrase “high priest of good things to come,” seems to refer to those “good things” which belonged to the dispensation that was to come; that is, the dispensation under the Messiah. The Jews anticipated great blessings in that time. They looked forward to better things than they enjoyed under the old dispensation. They expected more signal proofs of the divine favor; a clearer knowledge of the way of pardon; and more eminent spiritual enjoyments. Of these, the apostle says that Christ, who had come, was now the high priest. It was he by whom they were procured; and the time had actually arrived when they might enjoy the long-anticipated good things under the Messiah.
II. (:11b) BETTER TABERNACLE
“He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle,”
Operating in the very presence of God – in the heavenly reality of which the earthly tabernacle was a type
B. Heavenly – Not Earthly
“not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;”
III. (:12-14) BETTER SACRIFICE
A. (:12a) Perfect Human Sacrifice vs. Animal Sacrifice
“and not through the blood of goats and calves,
but through His own blood,”
Albert Barnes: That is, by his own blood shed for the remission of sins. The meaning is, that it was in virtue of his own blood, or “by means” of that, that he sought the pardon of his people. That blood was not shed for himself – for he had no sin – and consequently there was a material difference between his offering and that of the Jewish high priest. The difference related to such points as these.
(1) the offering which Christ made was wholly for others; that of the Jewish priest for himself as well as for them.
(2) the blood offered by the Jewish priest was that of animals; that offered by the Saviour was his own.
(3) that offered by the Jewish priest was only an emblem or type – for it could not take away sin; that offered by Christ had a real efficacy, and removes transgression from the soul.
B. (:12b) Once-for-all Sacrifice Gaining Acceptance in the Presence of God vs. Annual Sacrifice
“He entered the holy place once for all,”
C. (:12c) Completed Sacrifice Obtaining Eternal Redemption vs. Temporary Covering
“having obtained eternal redemption.”
D. (:13-14) Effective Sacrifice to Cleanse the Conscience vs. External Cleansing
1. (:13) External Cleansing Accomplished by Old Covenant Animal Sacrifices
a. Merely Animal Blood
“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer”
b. Merely Sprinkling Externally rather than Cleansing Internally
“sprinkling those who have been defiled,
sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh,”
F. F. Bruce: The blood of slaughtered animals under the old order did possess a certain efficacy, but it was an outward efficacy for the removal of ceremonial pollution.
2. (:14) Internal Cleansing Accomplished by the Blood of Christ
a. Superior Blood of Christ
“how much more will the blood of Christ,”
Hewitt: Three reasons are given why the blood of Christ has such unique significance:
First, Christ offered Himself through the eternal Spirit. This translation of the AV suggests a reference to the third Person of the Trinity, but the more probably meaning of the Greek is “through (His) eternal spirit.” Spirit here is used in opposition to “flesh” which is outward, material and transitory. Christ offered Himself through the virtue of His eternal spiritual nature, which made the offering of infinite value, and accomplished eternal redemption. “Christ offered Himself once, and the single sacrifice needed no repetition, since it possess absolute eternal value as the action of One who belonged to the eternal order” (Moffat).
Second, the sacrifice of Christ was rational and voluntary. He offered himself. It was not the slaughter of an unconscious, reluctant victim but an intelligent act of the highest spiritual obedience towards God (Phil. ii. 8), and an act of the highest spiritual love towards man (2 Cor. v. 14, 15).
Third, He offered himself without spot to God. The autho rhas already discussed the perfect High Priest; he now presents the spotless victim. The spotlessness is not outward, as in the Levitical sacrifices, but inward and ethical; for Christ’s character was blameless throughout His earthly life.
b. Superior Agency
“who through the eternal Spirit”
Leon Morris: despite the modern disinclination to see a Trinitarian reference here, it does seem as though something of the kind is needed if we are to do justice to the writer’s thought. While Christ’s own spirit is involved in his sacrifice, the divine Spirit is involved, too. It seems that the writer has chosen this unusual way of referring to the Holy Spirit to bring out the truth that there is an eternal aspect to Christ’s saving work.
c. Superior Sacrificial Lamb
without blemish to God,”
d. Superior Inward Cleansing and Empowerment
“cleanse your conscience from dead works
to serve the living God?”
MacArthur: Salvation is not an end in itself. The believer has been freed from sin to serve God, saved to serve (cf. Ro 6:16-18; 1 Th 1:9). The contrast between dead works and the living God (cf. 3:12; 10:31; 12:22) is basic. Cf. Jas 2:14-26.
F. F. Bruce: It is an inward and spiritual purification that is required if heart-communion with God is to be enjoyed. And therefore the “dead works” from which the conscience must be cleansed cannot be, as commentators have held, the unavailing ceremonial of Judaism; they must be things which convey inward and spiritual defilement . . . they are those practices and attitudes which belong to the way of death, which pollute the soul and erect a barrier between it and God. But their pollution is removed from the conscience by the work of Christ, so that men and women, emancipated from inward bondage, can worship God in spirit and in truth. This is the “perfection” which the ancient ceremonial was unable to achieve.
Oh! Precious is the flow
that makes me white as snow;
no other fount I know,
nothing but the blood of Jesus.