As we prepare for our time together in communion, I want you to return tonight with me to the book of Hebrews. We looked at this great epistle this morning and I want us to go back to it again tonight, particularly chapter 10, Hebrews chapter 10. And I want us to consider here in the words of this inspired text the great effectiveness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let me begin reading in verse 5, Hebrews 10.
“Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, but a body Thou have prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast taken no pleasure.’ Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come. In the roll of the book it is written of me to do Thy will, O God.’ After saying above, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast not desired, nor have Thou taken pleasure in them,’ which are offered according to the Law. Then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Thy will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
“And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 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,’ says the Lord: ‘I will put My laws upon their heart, and upon their mind I will write them.’ He then says, ‘And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
In somewhat typical fashion of the very tight arguments of the book of Hebrews, we come through a very, very impressive portion of Scripture. And just reading it, you become very much aware that it is not easy to understand with a cursory reading. But what it is saying from verses 5 through 18 is to help us understand the effectiveness of Christ’s sacrifice. Or to put it another way, the perfection of His sacrifice. Or to put it another way, the superiority of His sacrifice. Or to put it yet another way, the sufficiency of His sacrifice. And I want to give you several points, take you through that text so that you can fully understand the sense of it, if not all of the details.
First of all, Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient because it fulfilled God’s design, it fulfilled God’s design. Now let me give you just a little bit of background on that, if I may. In eternity past, the Father and the Son made a covenant, Hebrews 13:20 calls it the eternal covenant and I’ve spoken of it several times recently. This covenant involved a redeemed humanity. God the Father because He loved God the Son, the first member of the trinity having a unique love for the second member of the trinity, wanted to give to Him a gift. The gift that He wanted to give Him was a redeemed humanity who would spend forever and ever and ever praising Him and glorifying Him. That was the most marvelous way that God could deem to express His love to His Son, giving Him a great cloud, as it were, of redeemed people who would forever and ever praise Him.
Now in order to effect this promise, God had to redeem man. If He was going to give to Christ a redeemed humanity, He had therefore to redeem man. And since man would be fallen in sin when time began and the Fall took place, God had to set out a redemption plan. And the plan was that in order for God to give this redeemed humanity to the Son, the Son would have to come to earth and die. That would be His part in providing the sacrifice which would act as the atonement for sin. In other words, He would bear in His body the sins of all the sinners who were a part of the covenant. And thus He would expiate their sins, that is bearing the punishment of God for them would free them from any punishment. That was the plan. It’s called the eternal covenant.
A.W. Pink wrote much about this eternal covenant. This is what he said, “It is utterly impossible for us to form any clear and adequate idea of what the Lord of glory died to achieve if we have no real knowledge of the agreement in fulfillment of what his death took – of which His death took place. What is properly taught upon the subject today is that the atonement of Christ has merely provided an opportunity for men to be saved, that it has opened the way for God to justly pardon any and all who avail themselves of His gracious provision. But that is only a part of the truth and by no means the most important and blessed part of it. The grand fact is that Christ’s death was the completion of His agreement with the Father which guarantees the salvation of all who were named in that agreement, not one for whom He died can possibly miss heaven.”
Christ then, on the cross ratified this eternal covenant. He did that which was necessary to provide the redemption which the Father had in mind in the original plan. So Jesus Christ came into the world then to play the very particular role that God had designed for Him to play in this redeeming of humanity that they might be to Him a source of eternal praise and eternal honor. Now obviously, this death of Jesus Christ then became the focal point of the whole plan. Apart from the death of Christ it couldn’t happen.
So everything, starting very early in Genesis, starts to point toward that event. You have, for example, the promise that there is going to come a Son and by what He does He is going to bruise the head of the serpent. That is, He’s going to deliver a fatal blow to Satan. You have the marvelous picture of Abraham going to take his son and instead of his son dying there is a provision. There is another who steps into the gap. In fact, it is a ram caught in the thicket and that ram is to give his life in the place of the son. And there you have a picture of substitutionary atonement. Notice that there has to be a death.
You have it even earlier than that. You have God rejecting the offering of Cain. Why? Because it was not a blood sacrifice. And from the very beginning, all the sacrificial system was designed to depict this great ratification of the eternal covenant that would come in the death of Jesus Christ. Cain was out of line because he violated the symbolism of that sacrifice by offering the fruit of the ground rather than a blood sacrifice. All throughout the Old Testament – and you know the history of it as well – God had ordained a sacrificial system that resulted in the incessant flow of blood.
And all of it was looking forward to and depicting the ultimate ratification of the covenant that would come in the blood of Jesus Christ. And all of those pictures, of course, ceased after the death of Christ because there needed to be no more shadows. The substance had come. No more pictures; the reality was there. And that’s why after the death of Jesus Christ the sacrificial system ceases to exist. The pictures have met their reality. And we don’t need to have pictures to look forward to an event that hasn’t happened; we can look back to an event that has happened. But all of the sacrificial system looked forward to the coming of Christ.
If you back up, however, to verse 4 in Hebrews 10 you will find there that it was impossible for all that blood shed by bulls and goats to take away sin. It couldn’t. It never was intended to. It was simply a picture or a symbol of that ratification of the covenant made in eternity past between the Father and the Son which would take place on the cross when the Son died. When you look into the life of Jesus Christ and hear Him repeatedly saying things like, “I came to do My Father’s will,” He is speaking specifically of that task which would fall to Him on the cross whereby He would provide redemption which would bring about the salvation of those who were named in the eternal covenant and would become the sons, as it were, of glory.
Now first of all then, we say to you that we see in this text before us the sufficiency, superiority and perfection of the sacrifice of Christ because it fulfilled God’s plan. Look at verse 5. “Therefore when He comes into the world.” Now this assumes Christ’s preexistence, by the way. He’s not born, He comes into the world. “When He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired.’” In other words, all that has been going on. described in verse 8 as sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices and so forth, God has not found adequate.
That does not fulfill God’s plan. That did not expiate sin, that did not bring about forgiveness. And so, He says you didn’t desire that, that was not the ratification of the covenant, that was not the fulfillment, but “a body Thou hast prepared for Me.” The plan, the eternal covenant could not find its satisfaction in animal sacrifice, there had to be a body. By the way, that refers to Psalm 40 verses 6 through 8, but the psalmist says it differently. The psalmist says, “Mine ears hast Thou digged.” Quite an interesting statement. Such a statement could refer to the preparation of a – of a body and just vividly demonstrating God’s handiwork as He works on the ears.
Beyond that, the ears are certainly the hearing instrument of the body and it – it could in the psalmist’s words indicate to us that the Son will be obedient. And when He comes He will hear and He will listen and He will obey the will of the Father. He would have a submission that was perfect and complete. But it also possible, and perhaps most likely, that in Exodus 21:6 – we have the reference that ties in with the psalmist’s words, “Mine ear hast Thou digged.” Because the law said that when a Hebrew servant chose by his own will to enslave himself in voluntary servitude to a master, he was taken up against a piece of wood, a post or a door and his ear was put up against it at this particular point and some kind of sharp – sharp instrument was pounded through it.
That could particularly happen after the seven-year release or after a Jubilee Year, in the forty-ninth year or the fiftieth year, then all the servants would be released. But if somebody said, “I don’t want to be free, I want to serve you voluntarily.” They would have a hole put in their ear and it would symbolize total devotion in the form of willing servitude. Perhaps that’s the best understanding of this. And what the psalmist was saying when he said, “Mine ear hast Thou digged,” it could have been a reference to that. But the statement here in the New Testament takes liberty with the Psalms. And, of course, the New Testament writers can do that because they’re inspired.
And it seems as though it – it may better be understood that it involves that second point that I gave, and that is the fact that He was preparing a body and He was working on the ears because they are the representation of hearing. But whatever it means, in connection with Psalm 40, here it’s very clear he’s talking about a body prepared for incarnation. And the reason comes again in verse 6 because God was not satisfied. “In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast taken no pleasure.” Now that’s not the way it was with Christ. When the divine will was revealed in Christ, God was pleased, God was satisfied.
Then in verse 7, “Then I said, ‘Behold I have come, in the role of the book it is written of Me to do Thy will, O God.’” I came to fulfill the eternal purpose. Ephesians 3:11 says, “the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ our Lord.” That takes you back to the eternal covenant again. Jesus was committed to fulfilling His part of this covenant. In John 14:31, for example, He said, “But that the world may know that I love the Father and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do, arise let us go hence.” In other words, I’m going to go to the cross because that’s why I came. And by the way, that night Jesus was in a hurry because He had to hurry out to the garden so He wouldn’t miss Judas. You say, “Well why didn’t He want to miss Judas?” Because Judas was going to betray Him and then He would be taken captive and all of that had to come to pass. “The cup which My Father hath given Me,” He says in John 18:11, “shall I not drink it.”
Here, His own words spoken centuries before by the Son – by the Spirit of prophecy rather, concerning the Son in Isaiah 50, “The Lord God hath opened Mine ear and I was not rebellious, neither turned away. I gave My back to the smiters and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I did not – I hid not My face from shame and spitting.” In other words, in submission to God, I went into the world, took on a body and went through everything that God had planned. And so, Jesus becomes for us the perfect high priest. His sacrifice is a perfect sacrifice because it absolutely and utterly fulfills God’s design. A design which verse 7 says was written in the role of the book. And that has reference to the Old Testament.
Secondly, Christ’s sacrifice was perfect, complete and sufficient because it replaced the old inadequate system. It replaced the old inadequate system. Back again to verses 8 and 9, just briefly. And again it says, “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. Then He said, Behold I have come to do Thy will, He takes away the first in order to establish the second.”
In other words, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ eliminates the old and provides the new. The old is done away with there in verse 8 and the new comes in verse 9. The law was given by Moses, says John 1:17, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. God planned a better sacrifice and shows here that the old must be put away. The substance, as I said, is here. The shadow can be replaced. And this, by the way, is the author’s commentary on Psalm 40 and we don’t have time to go into all of that in detail.
And then we come to a third point. And this too is a vital one in the text. Christ’s sacrifice is better because it sanctifies the believer, verse 10, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Now God’s will was that men be sanctified. That’s very clear in Scripture. That means set apart from sin. Justification has a sanctifying component. Hagiazō means to be set apart to God, to set apart from sin, to be made holy. And here it has to do with salvation. The words “we are sanctified” in the Greek text is a perfect participle and a finite verb showing in the strongest way the – the permanent and continuous state of salvation in which the believer exists. And Jesus accomplished it once for all. And that is the remarkable reality of the sacrifice of Christ.
And, of course, that couldn’t be accomplished by animal sacrifices. They would offer an animal sacrifice and it wouldn’t necessarily sanctify a believer. It – it would demonstrate some act of faith on their part, some act of trust in God, some act of believing the – the revelation of God that they would go and offer an animal and it would show repentant and a contrite heart but it in itself could not sanctify. It couldn’t separate the sinner from his sin. It couldn’t make him holy. That was something only God could do and only by virtue, even then, of the sacrifice of Christ which was to come.
So, Christ offers a perfect sacrifice. And by that one offering we are sanctified, something which all of the offerings in the old economy could not do. No man can be made holy by an animal sacrifice, no matter how many religious activities or works he or she engages in. All the best works of the Levitical system couldn’t do it, but by the death of Jesus Christ we are set apart from sin.
You say, “Well how were Old Testament saints set apart from sin?” They were set apart from sin by faith, a repentant faith, a desire to be obedient to God, to love God, to acknowledge God, to believe His Word. And God accepted their faith and granted to them forgiveness and righteousness on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ which was yet to come. And so, in that sense it was retroactive.
Fourthly, in understanding the efficiency, the efficacy, the sufficiency, comprehensive perfection of the sacrifice of Christ, it actually removes sins. It actually removes sins. Verse 11 says, “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices which can never take away sins.” And that’s very similar to the point we just made about sanctifying. “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God.”
Every priest, everyone who stood in the priestly office ministered over and over and over. Leviticus had 24 orders of priests and all 24 orders of priests – and each order had many priests – and they had their own calendar and they served through the year at the appropriate time. All these priests doing all of this sacrificing and they just did it over and over and over and over, day after day after day after day. Why? Because it never really could eliminate sin, it just had to be repeated and repeated and repeated. It never provided a finality, a final and ultimate provision for sin.
But, on the other hand, it says in verse 12, Jesus offered one sacrifice one time for sins for all time and then sat down. This work was unrepeatable, absolutely unrepeatable. You perhaps could liken it to an illustration. It’s possible to reproduce bad art, lots of people do it. I can even do it. And it’s just as bad as what it reproduces, I guess. It’s even possible to reproduce bad music, isn’t it? Some of – some of us do that. But if somebody asked us to duplicate a Rembrandt with a brush or to write a symphony like a Beethoven or to write some kind of a fugue like Bach, we couldn’t do it. They stand alone.
It’s even possible to write Christmas card poetry. But none of us is being mistaken for a contemporary Shakespeare. You see, there are some things that are reproducible but there are some things, even on a human level, that aren’t. Well here, you transport yourself to the divine level and you’ve got something done by Jesus Christ that is absolutely irreproducible and unrepeatable. In an infinite sense, the sacrifice of Christ is the masterpiece of the universe, the masterpiece of the ages. It not only cannot be repeated, it need not be repeated for it removed sins once for all on behalf of those who believe. So, the sacrifice of Christ, the – the work that He did on the cross carries all of these perfections.
And then a fifth one. It destroyed His enemies, verse 13. It says that it is through, of course, the work of Jesus Christ that His enemies have been made a “footstool for His feet.” In other words, He’s going to stand on the heads of His enemies. That’s quite a remarkable statement. The overpowering of all of God’s enemies is accomplished in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Such references in Psalm 110, probably noted here, and you also find a similar kind of thing in the second Psalm. The – the ultimate enemy, of course, is Satan, and as I noted for you earlier, his – his head was to be devastatingly bruised by the One who came. You also have the fact that in Hebrews 2:14 it says that the Messiah when He came and died on a cross destroyed him who had the power of death.
Paul says Satan is surely to be put under Your feet and that fits into this text as well. And, of course, he rules over all the other enemies of God and Christ. The day is coming when having already bruised the serpent’s head He will take the earth, cast Satan, his unholy angels, and ungodly men into the eternal lake of fire, as we have been seeing in the book of Revelation. And let this stand as a warning to all who reject. His sacrifice is perfect because it does what all the Old Testament sacrifices could never do and that is destroy the enemies of God and bring them under the sovereign feet of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And number six, in going through this text briefly, His sacrifice was sufficient and perfect because it perfected forever the saints. That is to say it has an eternal impact. Verse 14, “By one offering He hast perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” The salvation it provided is forever. Not like the – the annual sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. Not like the constant sacrifices in the old covenant. This one provided an eternal forgiveness. Old covenant forgiveness was somehow tied to each sacrifice. And new forgiveness had to be sought after the next sin. But here is, or at least a new reminder, that forgiveness was needed. But here is total forgiveness and complete security. Perfected forever means put into a permanent state of complete righteousness by being covered with the righteousness of Christ.
Then number seven. And I suppose we could say it very simply this way. This sacrifice of Jesus Christ fulfills the promise of God for a new covenant. And therefore, we could say it affirms God’s faithfulness, it affirms God’s faithfulness, God’s trustworthiness. You know the Jews under the old economy waited and waited and waited and waited. There must have been a weariness to the sacrificial system. When is it all going to end? When is the Messiah going to come? When will the promises of God to bring a new covenant come to pass?
And here we find in verses 15 and following, “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,’ says the Lord, ‘I’ll put My laws upon their heart, upon their mind I’ll write them.’ He then says, ‘And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’” And here is a wonderful reference back to Jeremiah chapter 31 where Jeremiah is the vehicle by which God promises a new covenant, a covenant that will cause the law of God to be written on their hearts and on their minds, a covenant that means their sins and lawless deeds will be forgotten.
That’s God’s promise. And God’s people waited and waited and waited for the fulfillment of that promise. Their beloved prophet Jeremiah spoke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, about a new covenant. This was God’s promise and they waited and waited and finally in Christ the new covenant came as God said it would come. Then in verse 18, he sums it all up by saying, “Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” We can lean for all our time and eternity on that one sacrifice for eternal salvation.
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.
Now how does all of that lead to what we will experience tonight? Just this, verse 18 again. We already have forgiveness. There is no longer need – need for any offering for sin. Let it be clear then that what we do tonight is but a remembrance. This is not like a Mass where Christ is re-sacrificed. Such is, frankly, a blasphemous notion. We are not engaging in some mystical death of Christ by which He is again crucified for the latest of our litany of iniquities. But rather this celebration and this ceremony is but a remembrance which looks back.
It does not take away sin in and of itself. There is no grace as such, no saving grace, justifying grace, forgiving grace ministered in the cup or in the bread. This is a way for us to remember the singularity of the offering of Christ on the cross. And as we come to this table we – we want to look back and be grateful for all that was provided in Christ’s sacrifice. What special privilege do we have upon whom the end of the ages has come, we who live on this side of the cross? But those who were before us were not perfected without us, the writer of Hebrews says.
And even the best of them, the – the writers of Scripture, the prophets searched out the things that they were being told to see what person and what time these things might come to pass. And here are we after all of the centuries prior to the time of Christ, living in the glories of having been after this event, and not needing to look forward to something we cannot quite see but able to look back to that which is crystal clear. And so, the Lord has instructed us to come to His table and to come here often in order that we might look back to that all sufficient and perfect offering that Jesus rendered on the cross which fulfilled God’s design to ratify the eternal covenant, which did away with that old and terminable system of sacrifices, which sanctified us, that has made us holy, removed our sin, destroyed our enemy, provided for us eternal life and demonstrated to us that when God promises something, He will bring it to pass.
And we can trust that the old covenant God who said I’m bringing a new covenant can be trusted as the new covenant God who says I’m bringing you to glory. And so, we come tonight with rejoicing hearts. The privileged of God’s people who live on this side of Calvary and can see the fullness of what Christ provided there. Let’s bow in prayer.
Father, we thank You again, as always, when we come into Your presence because the first thing that comes into our mind, at least in my mind, is the need to express gratitude. Just the fact that You are available to our pleadings and our petitions is cause for great thanks. Thank You for hearing our prayer. And, Lord, we come to You tonight and we express to You the deep desire that we have to honor Christ, to honor You for this great gift. Thank You for purposing the covenant.
Thank You for designing that Jesus should ratify the covenant and bring a redeemed humanity to glory by His death. Thank You that He would bear our sins in His own body, that He who knew no sin would be made sin that we might be made righteous. Thank You that He would become our substitute, our kinsmen redeemer. Thank You that He would bear in His body our judgment and our punishment. Thank You that He would feel the wrath that should have been placed on us. Thank You that You made Him a body that He might suffer as man for man, that He might be the provision that takes away sin.
We bless You. And we have come tonight to partake of these humble elements that we might find in them the tangible reminder of the literal reality of Christ and His death for us. But, Lord, we come eagerly and we come with a heart of celebration and gratitude and yet we cannot come hastily. For to come hastily would be to bring about judgment.
And so we recognize that we cannot partake unless we know Christ. We cannot partake unless we are walking in obedience to Christ. We cannot partake if we are holding on to sin, if we are harboring sin. So, Lord, we come first to this time to confess. Lord, cleanse us, wash us, make us clean, purge us. Show us any sin, give us alacrity to release it that we might not partake in an unworthy way. And we’ll pray in Christ’s name, Amen.
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