Christ the Final and Perfect Sacrifice (Hebrews Sermon 38 of 74)
August 28, 2011 | Andrew Davis
Incarnation, The Offices of Christ, Animal Sacrificial System
The Most Powerful Event on the Face of the Earth
So a number of years ago, I had the opportunity to go with some of our young people and some others from this church to take care of the gulf port region that had been hit so hard by Hurricane Katrina, and it just so happened at that point, I was reading the book, "A Perfect Storm," by Sebastian Younger about another hurricane. So I was thinking about that this morning after Hurricane Irene went its more or less gentle way through our region. We're grateful for the protection as I prayed. There are certainly far worse hurricanes that have hit. But Sebastian Younger wrote these words. He said, "A mature hurricane is by far the most powerful event on Earth." Now sometimes you read things and it just arrests you and you look at that and that's a striking statement, isn't it? "By far the most powerful event on Earth." He goes on at that point and says, "The combined nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union," the former Soviet Union, "the combined power would not be able to keep a hurricane going for one day." When you stop and think about that, if you could somehow harness all of that power of a hurricane, it could provide enough energy for the United States for three or four days. That's incredible when you think about it. One billion cubic or one million cubic miles of atmosphere are affected by a mature hurricane.
Younger was talking about a hurricane that hit Providence in 1938, so powerful that it put Providence, Rhode Island under 10 feet of ocean. The waves that were stirred up in that 1938 hurricane literally shook the earth. Seismographs as far as away as Alaska, 5000 miles away, read the power of those waves. But here I am, I'm a pastor. I get to preach the word of God every week and I know that Sebastian Younger wasn't speaking theologically when he said that a mature hurricane is by far the most powerful event on Earth.
I tell you, there is no natural event that has eternal consequences. The Gospel is the most powerful event on Earth. Amen? And so I would say any individual person hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, repenting and believing, now that's the most powerful event on the face of the earth, because it says in Romans 1:16, "The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes," and that salvation is an eternal consequence of hearing and believing. That's an awesome thing. We are this morning under the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's my privilege to kind of unleash the power of the Gospel today in your hearing. And even if you believed it for the first time you were regenerated years ago, it still has power for you today, the power for your ongoing salvation. It's an awesome thing, the Gospel.
And the reason I'm thinking about this today, not just because of Hurricane Irene, but also because the text uses the negated form of power in verse four, comes across in the English as "impossible." The blood of bulls and goats have no power to remove sin. And so we're looking at something that has no power or is powerless compared to something that does have the power to make a sinner like you and me holy. That's an awesome thing. God does not throw that word around lightly. To call a sinner like me holy in the sight of God is an awesome thing. It takes infinite power to do that, and we are in the presence of that power, and the agent of that power is Jesus Christ. Literally, in this text, the body of Christ is what God used to make us holy.
And so we have pitted against each other here in this text the blood of bulls and goats, which are powerless, and the body of Christ, which has the power to make us holy. And so, we have here in these 10 verses very clearly laid out for us the end of animal sacrifice. And it's really an incredible thing when you think about it. It's something that God himself in his wisdom instituted. God wanted it done. It had been part for centuries, even for millennia, of human experience. I would argue from the Garden of Eden when naked Adam and Eve were clothed with the skin of an animal, certainly in the next chapter when Abel offered animal sacrifice and was looked on with favor by God, but Cain offered vegetables and different things and his offering was not accepted by God, through to the time when Noah got off the ark into a new world, now cleansed by the flood of human wickedness and sin, and he and his family were the only survivors. And the first thing he did was offer animal sacrifice, and it said that the aroma was well-pleasing to God. So it's somewhat of a mystery here, because in our text it says that he was not pleased with animals. He was not pleased with the blood of bulls and goats. That's why he prepared a body for Jesus.
And so as the scripture says that God is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the first and the last. He is the beginning and the end. And the Lord instituted animal sacrifice for a very distinct purpose, and he ended it at the time of Christ. And so for us, we look today in these 10 verses at the end of animal sacrifice and even better at Christ as the final and perfect sacrifice for our sins, a sacrifice so powerful, it could take a sinner like you, a sinner like me, and make us holy in God's sight, holy forever in the presence of God.
I. The Powerlessness of Animal Sacrifice (vs. 1-4)
So look at verses one through four as we dig in. There it talks very plainly about the powerlessness, the powerlessness of animal sacrifice. Says there, "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices, repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For then, the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sin and because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."
The Entire System Was a Shadow
So the author begins with the concept of the law being only a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the reality.
Now, the idea of a shadow as I meditated on that, how was the law, how was animal sacrifice a shadow? You know that in order to have a shadow, you have to have something that has reality, something with substance to it, and a light source, and then the shadow can come. You can see perhaps around the corner or against the wall, you can see the shadow of a person coming, or as I've done in the past, you get a flashlight when you're camping and you try to make... I'm not going to do it now, but you know those little hand things with the eagle and all that kind of stuff that you can do in the dark and all of those things that some of you are skillful at doing. The shadow has no substance to it. You can't grasp it. You can't take hold of it. It just testifies that there is something real that is making the shadow. So as I continued to meditate on this, I thought about what is the light source and where is it coming from? And as I look at it then, as I said last week, preaching against reincarnation, that history is linear. There's a beginning, a middle and an end. I think in my mind then, we go all the way to the end, even beyond the end of human history.
Let's go to the new heaven and the new earth, this perfect world, radiant, shining with the glory of God through Jesus Christ. And that world does not need the light of the sun or the moon or the stars to shine, doesn't need a lamp, no human light needed, just a radiantly beautiful and perfect place. And the perfection needed is right in this little section here. The animals could not make the worshipers perfect, so there is a need for perfection. So we go out in our minds by faith to that perfect world and the light shining from that world. There, human beings, redeemed sinners, are in perfect fellowship with God, all of their sins forgiven. They are dwelling in perfect resurrection bodies. All of their pains and death is done forever. They're in perfect relationship with one another, loving each other as the Father and the Son have loved them. They love each other perfectly. They're in a perfect world. The groaning of creation is done. All of that's finished. They're in a perfect city, the new Jerusalem, just come down as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband, and there's a light shining down back through the corridors of time. And at the center of that is the cross of Jesus Christ, the work of Christ, necessary to get us there.
Christ is the Reality
And before the cross of Christ is the shadow. You see what I'm saying? The reality is Christ. The reality is where Christ is bringing us. Heavenly reality, Christ the reality, shadows in the Old Covenant, that's what the author's saying. And so, the prophet saw only a shadow. Every time animal sacrifices were made, you're only... It's only a shadow. Christ is the reality. And so in Colossians 2:17, it says, "These are a shadow of the things that were to come. The reality, however, is found in Christ." And so it says the law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming. Oh, how sweet are those good things. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. The good things mentioned here are the good things of the Gospel, the good things that Jesus intends to give us. Again, full forgiveness of all of our sins, reconciliation with God, freedom from sin in every respect. The explosive, the destructive power of sin has been rectified. The universe is put back together. That's the whole problem with a hurricane. It can't harness its energy. It's destructive energy.
So in my neighborhood, there are leaves and branches and twigs everywhere, and we're thankful just for that. But you know the destructive power of a hurricane, you just have to go down to Gulfport after Katrina hit and see it. Okay, but this is a constructive power. The Gospel puts things back together, and so these are the good things that are coming. And we can look ahead. Oh, I think it's so sweet for us to meditate on this, that for you, all of your best things are in the future. They're all yet to come if you're a Christian. Your best days aren't behind you. I don't care how old you are and I don't care what's going on in your body. I don't care how broken down your body is. If you're a Christian, all of your best things are in the future. The good things are coming. And we'll get to that in Hebrews 11 where it talks about faith essentially forward-looking, looking ahead to what's coming. The law couldn't get us there. The law had no power to get us there. The law couldn't give us those good things. Only Christ could do that.
Endless Repetition of the Sacrifice Shows Impotence
And so the author says that the endless repetition of these animal sacrifices prove the impotence. Actually, there are two great evidences in this section here that the author's giving, that the animal sacrifices were never intended to make us perfect. They didn't have power to save us. The endless repetition is one of the evidences, and the fact that it left the worshipper is still feeling guilty for their sins. Their consciences weren't touched. And those two great evidences the author brings forward to show that the animal sacrifices themselves were impotent. And so he says, "For this reason, it can never, the law can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered?" And so the author is arguing from what we consider now, thoroughly instructed by the Gospel, a new covenant understanding of the purpose of sacrifice. The purpose of sacrifice was once for all to make us perfect. Anything that did not do that was merely a copy, a type of shadow. And so because they were endlessly repeated, they couldn't be the reality, the endless repetition.
So it was once a year, I think the author really having in mind here Yom Kippur, the day of covering, the day of atonement, that once a year. And the endless repetition year after year after year, they kept being done. And so it just proves, built in here proof that the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin. It's powerless to make us perfect. Now, that word perfect may rankle you a bit. I mean does God really expect us to be perfect? Well, yes, he does if you're going to live with him. You must be morally perfect to be in God's presence. If there's any stain or blemish in you, you cannot be with such a holy God. This is the one whose eyes are like blazing fire. He cannot look on evil in any way. This is the one who is holy, holy, holy, and you cannot be in his presence if you are not perfect. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." You must be morally perfect. The blood of bulls and goats couldn't get you there, had no power to make you perfect. And we must be perfect if we are going to be with God forever. Praise be to God by the end of this section, Verse 10, you're called holy.
And another word for that would be perfect, perfectly holy, perfect in morality, perfectly conformed to Christ. So, something has the power to do it. We already know what it is. It's the body of Christ. But the blood of bulls and goats couldn't do it, and so we needed a true cleansing, not a symbolic cleansing. We needed a cleansing that could actually reach down to our guilty consciences and purify them so that our consciences would not assail us any longer for the wicked things that we have done and for the things, good things, that we should have done that we left undone. Our conscience flails at us and accuses us and it cannot be quieted by the blood of bulls and goats. Conscience knows better, because in some way, the conscience with God knows that on Judgment Day, the blood of bulls and goats will not help you. And so the conscience could never be quieted by these animal sacrifices. I think you remember very plainly the testimony concerning this that David gives. Now David in Psalm 51, he said very, very plainly, "You do not desire a sacrifice or offering or I would give it. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. Oh, God, you will not despise."
Do you remember the circumstances, how David committed adultery with Bathsheba? She was pregnant. He killed her husband to cover it up, great wickedness. And day and night, God's hand was heavy upon David, his conscience smiting him, and he knew that the blood of bulls and goats could not deal with that problem. And so he needed a true and genuine cleansing from guilt, and animals couldn't do it. And just as we saw in Isaiah 1 as the prophet speaks about the multitude of their sacrifices, all of these animals, this river of animal blood that they were bringing. "The multitude of your sacrifices, what are they to me? ...I have more than enough of the blood of bulls and goats…. Who asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings." And so the testimony was clear in a number of places in the Old Testament how genuine believers in Christ knew that the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins. We needed a genuine sacrifice, a genuine cleansing. Instead this machinery, this endless it seemed, machinery of Levitical sacrifices at the tabernacle first and then at the temple, all it did it is serve as an annual reminder of sin.
Sacrifice an Annual Reminder of Sin
There you are. You get your family together. You trudge up to Jerusalem again for Yom Kippur, for the day of atonement, and all it is just another reminder of another year of sin, another year in which you have not lived up to the Law of Moses, another year in which you have violated your conscience. And here you go for more animal blood and it's just an annual reminder. As I was thinking about this, I thought of an illustration. I don't know if it's a perfect one, but just from medical science, if somebody's kidneys stop functioning properly, they're no longer cleansing the blood stream of toxins that are threatening the life of the person. And so that person in many cases has to have dialysis and they have to go maybe several times a week to get hooked up to a machine and get their blood cleansed. And it's a constant reminder to them that they're not well. And so I think that's what these animal sacrifices were. They were just a constant reminder to the people that they were not well spiritually.
There was no actual remedy. The dialysis wasn't healing the problem. It just was a constant reminder that enabled them to keep going, but it didn't actually address the problem of sin because it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. Now in meditating on this a number of years ago, this put the final piece of the puzzle together. As I was asking the question, and this is important, an important question hinted at by me earlier, but an important question: Why did God institute it? If it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, if later in Psalm 40, he's going to say he's not pleased with them, they're not pleasing to him, why did he do it? Why did he set it up? Well, he did it to teach the human race the virtue, the value, of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross among other things. But that's the centerpiece of it all, to teach us Christ, to teach us Jesus' death so that we can understand how the death of someone can help you or benefit you at all.
3 Lessons of the Animal Sacrificial System
And so he instituted this animal sacrificial system from the very beginning. And so, as I've said to you before, I drew out three lessons of the animal sacrificial system.
- All Sin Deserves the Death Penalty
Lesson number one that all sin deserves the death penalty. The wages of sin is death. Do not eat from that tree. The day you eat it, you will surely die. And so Adam and Eve were under that death penalty, but they didn't die right away. An animal died. And so all sin deserves the death penalty, a constant reminder of the link between sin and death. You deserve to die.
- The Penalty Can be Paid by a Substitute
The second lesson of the animal sacrificial system is that that death penalty can be paid, hallelujah, can be paid by a substitute. When the priest would put his hands on the head of the animal and confess onto it the sins of the people and in some mysterious way, symbolically there in the Old Covenant, there's a type and a shadow, but symbolically transfer the guilt to the head of the animal and then kill the animal. The transfer of guilt, the possibility that guilt can be transferred to a substitute is established by this animal sacrificial system. That's lesson number two.
- The Substitute Cannon be an Animal
Lesson number three is that substitute cannot be an animal. I get that right out of Hebrews 10:4. Do you see it? It's impossible for it to be an animal. The blood of bulls and goats cannot save us from our sins. It does not have the power to take away sins. Well, then, what was it for? Well, it was to enable those people to look ahead beyond it to something that would save them, beyond the type, beyond the shadow, to the reality, who is Christ. And it enables us who really never experienced animal sacrifice but who can read about it, because in the providence of God, we have this full record in the Bible. And I've personally never seen an animal actually killed, his blood poured out and the patterns laid out here, but I can imagine what it was like. I'm instructed by the Bible about it, so I look back on this type and shadow.
And whether you're looking ahead in the Old Testament era or you're looking back now in the New Testament era, we're looking back through the lens of this incredible teaching tool, animal sacrificial system, to understand Jesus and how has John the Baptist appointed him and said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." The son of God, who entered the world to die in our place. But it's impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to do this.
II. Christ’s Body and Mind Prepared for Sacrifice (vs. 5-7)
The second main point here is in verses 5-7,and that is that God prepared a body for Jesus for precisely this purpose. He prepared for Jesus a human body so that he could enter the world and die for our sins. How amazing are these verses. Look at verses 5-7, "Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: 'Sacrifice an 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.'"
Now here we come to the mystery of Old Testament prophecy. It's a mysterious and a beautiful thing. And the author introduces this quotation of Psalm 40 with the word "therefore," so we just link verse 4 right up to verse 5 because it's impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. Because of that, Christ, when he came into the world said, you see, because of the ineffectiveness of animals, Jesus came into the world and said these things. That's the link. And so Christ speaks here at the time of his incarnation. It says, "Therefore, when Christ came into the world he said... " And then what follows is a quote of Psalm 40. So again, the author does a wonderful thing here. He puts the words of Old Testament Scripture right in Jesus' mouth. Jesus is the word of God, and he speaks by the prophets.
This is his word. This is him speaking. I know that David wrote Psalm 40 a thousand years before Jesus was born, but these are words that the author tells us Christ spoke upon entering the world and he's speaking to his Heavenly Father. So there's the you-and-I kind of dynamic going here. "'Sacrifice and offering you, [O Father] did not desire, but a body you, [Heavenly Father] prepared for me, [me being Jesus] 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.'"
So the author is saying Jesus said those words to his Father upon entering the world. Now I think Jesus was born in the ordinary way as a human being, born of the Virgin Mary, when he was wrapped up in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, it was because he was physically helpless, like any other human baby, needed his mother to care for him in that way, his father to protect him and care for him etcetera, just a normal human baby. So this statement must have been made before the incarnation. Do you see? So just as Christ in a mysterious way, and you know circuit breakers in your minds are going to be tripping all over the place, so just before he enters as a holy embryo in Mary, and I would say this statement was made from all eternity past because Jesus... The plan was not a new one. It was before the foundation of the world that Jesus would die for us. But upon entering the world, he says this to his father, and he speaks and he says, Christ says to the father that God did not desire animal sacrifice. "Sacrifice and offering, you did not desire." "I'm not entering the world to be another Levitical priest."
We've already covered that. He was born in the tribe of Judah. He had no right. It was illegal for him to offer animal sacrifices, and that's not why he came. "Sacrifice and offering, you did not desire," he says. And he wasn't pleased with them. They were inadequate. He wanted a perfect people. He wanted sinners made perfect, and the blood of bulls and goats couldn't do it and he knew it. And so he had always planned to send his son. And so therefore, "Sacrifice and offering, you did not desire, but rather a body you prepared for me." This is a mysterious, a mystical Inter-Trinitarian conversation as Jesus speaks to his father about the body he's getting ready for him.
It's amazing. It's amazing. Stand in awe of the Scripture. Stand in awe of theology and of these deep things. God the Father prepared a human body for Jesus. It was God that did that. God the Father did that. And the Scripture tells us that the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and this text in effect is saying that God the Father did that. He made the body inside Mary's womb. So, in Luke 1:35, the angel Gabriel spoke this to Mary when Mary said, "How will this be…since I am a virgin?"
And the angel said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And so the holy one to be born of you will be called the Son of God." And so God through the Holy Spirit prepared a body for Jesus. I think Psalm 1:39 just comes alive at this point where it says, "You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
God the Father knit together a body for Jesus, an ordinary human body. It wasn't a super body. It wasn't like he was in some genetically higher order of humanity. He was a human in every way just as we are, yet was without sin. And so he had sinews and muscles and bones and nerves. And all of those bodily systems we need to stay alive, he needed those too. He was a real human being with a real body. He had a brain. He had a heart and lungs, liver and kidneys. But especially for our purposes, he had blood. And God made the blood of life course through Jesus' vein so that at the right time that blood could be spilled, could be shed for my sin and yours. And so, "A body you prepared for me." That's what Jesus said to his father. And so we see how the body was prepared and we also see beautifully in this Psalm Christ's mind or his attitude as well.
Some Textual Issues
Now here we come to some text problems. I never burden you guys with text issues. I think that's my job to burden myself with them, okay? So I'm not saying, "Well, you know, the Alexandrian text says this, but the Antiochian text says this other." So I'm not going to burden you with that. You just want to tell me, tell me the truth. There is no doctrine in the Bible that's hanging on a text problem. What do I mean by a text problem? Well, we don't have the original of Psalm 40. David wrote it at some point, sketched it out on some paper he had ready to hand, wrote it out under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit guarded from error, speaking with a prophetic voice here as Jesus would, not fully understanding what he was writing. And we don't have that original, thank God.
And we don't have the original of the Book of Hebrews either for that matter. Now the New Testament writers, frequently when quoting the Old Testament, they would use a Greek translation of the Old Testament called The Septuagint. It was very, very popular among Jews at that time, after Alexander the Great swept through that area. Many of them were Greek-speaking. And so the Bible was translated before Jesus was born by 70 scholars that tradition has it, and they compared it and it was all amazing, a perfectly harmonized translation. Whether that ever happened, I don't know, but I do know there was a Greek translation of the Old Testament. And the Greek says, "A body you prepared for me."
If you were to read Psalm 40, though, in the Old Testament, the English editors are going to choose the Hebrew text and that's going to say, "My ear you have pierced," or perhaps, "My ears you have opened," depending on how you translate that. And I think with the idea of a piercing of an ear, it goes to right after the Ten Commandments in Exodus, I think Chapter 21, when it talks about male servants and female servants and all that, and if there should be a servant that so loved his master that he didn't want to be set free after the six years of service. He wanted to stay with the master. He said, "I like my life here. I want to stay with you." And that master will take that servant to a door and put his ear lobe against the door post and shove an awl through his ear and he will become his servant for life.
Christ’s Heart Presented to God
And what a beautiful picture of Jesus' servant attitude toward his father. It's not just a body that's in view here, but Christ's attitude toward his father. Look at verse seven: "Then I said, 'Here I am, it is written about me in the scroll: I have come to do your will, O God." The very reason he took on the very nature of a human being was to be a servant, "And having been found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to his father even to the point of death, even to death on a cross," Philippians 2. And so this is the mind of Christ, have this mind in you, which was also in Jesus, and we have Psalm 40 giving us Jesus' mind. "I am God's servant. I am a slave to command and whatever he does, my ears are open to listen to him. The body you have prepared for me is prepared to serve you. It's prepared to serve you even to the point of death."
Do you notice how I'm not deciding between any of the text options. I like them all. I don't get them all, but I'm going to kind of pretend. I'm like the kid in the candy shop. I want them all. I want the whole thing. And so we have a beautiful servant attitude of Jesus to the point of death, even death on a cross through the body that God prepared for him.
And so Jesus said so beautifully... Remember his disciples in John 4 came back from the Samaritan village with lunch, said, "Alright, we got food. Let's eat. Let's eat. I'm hungry. Jesus, what do you want?" Said, "I have food to eat you know nothing about." "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work." The finishing of the work was death on a cross. That's what Psalm 40 is giving us. "Here I am, he said, 'It is written about me in the scroll. I delight to do your will, O God. Your law is written in my heart,'" the very thing that's going to be ours when our salvation is finished, when we are conformed to Christ perfectly. His laws will be perfectly written, not just in our hearts but in everything we do, conformed in every way to the character of Christ. But Jesus lived like that, a perfect life of righteousness under the law of God. And so it was written about Jesus in the scroll. To me, that talks about the mystery of prophecy again, how every element of Jesus' life was written out in the scroll before one of those days came to be, how he would be born and what kind of life he would live, the nature of his ministry and specifically the events surrounding his death and his resurrection prophesied.
Remember when Peter wanted to rescue Jesus from dying? Remember that? What a key moment that was in redemptive history. "Peter put your sword away. I need to go to the cross." You remember what he said? "How then would the Scripture be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" "It is written about me in the scroll. I have come to do your will, O God." And so after his resurrection, what does Jesus spend his time with his apostles doing? He opens up the Law of Moses, the Psalms, prophets, and showed them everything that was written about him in the scroll, everything that was there so that by the day of Pentecost and then from then on in the Book of Acts they're just flowing Old Testament all the time. These apostles were preaching because it was written about Jesus in the scroll that he would come and die for us.
III. Christ is the End of Animal Sacrifice (vs. 8-10)
And so in verses 8-10, the author makes it very clear. He drives the point home Christ is the end of animal sacrifice. "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). And 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."
So, the author is going back over Psalm 40 now carefully, and he says, "Okay, first he said sacrifice and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings, God you didn't desire and you weren't pleased with them." And then he himself brings up, "Yes, but you're the one that commanded them to be done." The law did command for them to be made, but their time is finished now. And Jesus said, "It is finished. It's done."
And God wasn't ultimately pleased with any of them. He was pleased with the faith of Job who would offer up sacrifices for his sons and daughters in case they might have cursed God in their heart, pleased with his faith. The animals didn't do anything for God. He says in Psalm 50, "Do I eat the flesh of bulls?" "Do I really like that I have a taste for meat?" It's got nothing to do with that. As it points to Christ, that's it. And so he was not pleased with them even though the law required them to be made. And so it would have been wrong for any Old Testament Jew to leave off the animal sacrifices. They weren't allowed to do that. As a matter of fact, the prophet Malachi was angry with them for bringing substandard animals, trying to cheat God.
But Christ is the end of it. In verse 9, he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." Jesus came to make, as it says in Isaiah 53, the will of God flourish or prosper in his hands. Isaiah 53 says that God's will flourishes in the hands of this suffering servant, and by his death, my righteous servant will justify many. And so he's here to make the will of God flourish, and by that second will, he sets aside the first will of God. The first will of God was animal sacrifice. Now by the will of God that is over. Its time is finished. And so here it is. It says very plainly, "He sets aside the first to establish the second." So in the context of Hebrews, the author is speaking to Jewish people who have made a profession of faith in Christ and are being tempted to go back to the Old Covenant worship. He is saying Jesus has set it aside. The time for it is done. No more animal sacrifice. And he did it to establish the second.
And by the will of God, it says in Verse 10, "By that will," by whose will? By the will of God the Father. By the will of Almighty God, you have been made holy. That's awesome. It brings goosebumps to me right now. We, actually the author includes himself, "By that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus once for all." I look on that word, "holy," that one word, "holy," like a pure ocean of water and you're just standing there covered with filth and grime and you just fall backward into it and you get cleansed. We're holy, friends. You're holy once for all. Now, you may struggle with your conscience. Even as a Christian, you may say, "Yeah, but I've done this. I've done that." Well you know that God has ordained to give you your salvation in stages. But he desired to declare you holy before he actually makes you holy through sanctification and glorification, and he puts a yearning for holiness in your heart. If you're a genuine Christian, you yearn for it, don't you?
You have hunger and thirst for righteousness. And this one verse declares you, if you're in Christ, holy right now. Isn't that beautiful? Now we're called on to live up to it day by day by the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh. Yes. But some day he is going to make it happen. At the moment when you see him face-to-face, you'll be transformed, you'll be made just like he is, you'll be spending eternity in a resurrection body, you'll be holy and blameless, and all of it because of the body of Jesus Christ given for you on the cross.
So application, friends, earlier Jim prayed for any precious person who is here outside of Christ. Why stay outside of Christ? Why not come in now and be made holy through faith in the blood of Jesus? Why not? Why not believe? Why not repent? Turn away from those things that are hurting you. Turn away from those things that are damaging you and come into Christ. Believe on him and you will be instantly right now, even as you're listening to me, made holy instantaneously by faith.
The righteous obedience of Jesus will be credited to you simply by faith. And if you're already Christian, you're struggling with sin, know this: God is simply calling on you to live up to what you already are. Isn't that beautiful? You are holy, so live holy. That's the way that the New Testament always teaches holy living, not that God's waiting to see how well you do and based on that, he will approve or disapprove. It's not that. He's already declared you holy. Now live up to it and marvel at the progression of redemptive history, how God instituted animal sacrifice, teaches us still by it, but then put it to an end forever when Jesus died. Marvel at that. This is an incredible plan of our salvation. And spend the rest of your day at least, I would say the rest of your life, thanking Jesus and worshipping him for being willing to take on a body to die for you. Just thank him.
Let that thankfulness flow through you. Let it drive out doubt and discouragement and despair and physical pain, emotional sorrow. Let it drive out all of these things. You have been as loved as you possibly can be loved in Jesus. He gave his body for you to make you holy. Close with me in prayer.