Page 18

Christ’s supreme and sufficient sacrifice

Chris Thomson

T

he book of Hebrews was written to encourage weary

Christians who were flagging in their faith. The recipients had demonstrated their love for God by helping his people (6:10). They had endured suffering and disgrace for Christ (10:32-34).But as they ran the race of the Christian life their knees had begun to grow weak (12:12): they were lethargic in listening to God’s word (5:11), and they needed to be exhorted to persevere (10:35-36) and not drift away (2:1). Perhaps you can relate. Do you find yourself less confident in your faith than you once were? Less hungry for God’s word? Less eager to approach God in prayer? Do you find it harder than previously to live for the world to come rather than this world? The antidote Hebrews prescribes for such spiritual lethargy is a clearer vision of the greatness of Christ and of the salvation we have in him. Hebrews 10:1-18 comes at the climax of the writer’s argument that the new covenant, of which Christ is mediator, is vastly superior to the old covenant given through Moses. And here he shows us the magnificence of Christ’s death by comparing it to the sacrifices of the Old Testament. OLD TESTAMENT SACRIFICES COULD NOT TAKE AWAY SIN 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 worshippers, having once been cleansed, would 18

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. Hebrews 10:1-4 Prior to these verses, the writer has been explaining the arrangement and functioning of the tabernacle where God met with his people in Old Testament times. He describes the tabernacle as a “model” and a “shadow” of God’s heavenly dwelling place, the true tabernacle on which the earthly one was patterned (8:2, 5; similarly 9:23-24). The sacrifices of the Old Testament law also belong to that shadow world, illustrating the way that God would take away sin but not doing so themselves. When Moore College was planning its new Learning and Teaching Centre, an architect’s model was constructed to show what the building would look like. But the model was not the actual building, and it couldn’t do what the actual building was intended to do. In the same way, the Old Testament tabernacle and its sacrifices were illustrative. They illustrated that forgiveness of sins required the shedding of blood (9:22), but by their repetition they also pointed to the fact that the blood of animals was not sufficient. If it had been, no further sacrifices would have been needed. Worshippers would have walked away from the tabernacle with clean consciences and full access to God. That’s not to say that the Old Testament sacrifices had no effect. They offered a partial and interim solution, cleansing the “flesh” although not the conscience (9:9-10, 13). But their annual repetition was a reminder that sin had not been fully and finally dealt with. Many of us have recently received one of the COVID-19 SouthernCross

November 2021