Men nowadays hate the idea of sacrifice. Paul Wells observes this when he writes, “Blood-sacrifice is repugnant to modern man and had long been the object of scorn on the part of critics of Christianity” (Wells 121). But it is central for the Christian faith because of the revelation God has given us and how a man approaches God.
The word “sacrifice” is from the Latin verb sacerfacere, which means “to make sacred or holy.” The key words used in Hebrew and Greek are zebah and thysia, respectively. Both terms allude to something that is slain or sacrificed in the place of another as an offering.
God’s justice demands the sinner’s death; the sacrifice is killed and offered in the sinner’s place to satisfy God’s justice and appease His wrath.
THE NEED FOR SACRIFICE
In the Old Testament, every violation of the Law required a substitutionary sacrifice. It is important to note that the “blood of bulls and goats” was powerless to take away the sin (Heb. 10:4).
Such sacrifices served only as illustrations of the following things:
- the seriousness of sin and its punishment—“the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “It is because of sin that sacrifices are necessary and their efficacy deals with the problem of sin” (Wells 125).
- the need for a substitutionary sacrifice to satisfy the demands of God’s justice;
- the need for a great and final sacrifice made by One of infinite value—the Son of God.
THE INSUFFICIENCY OF OT SACRIFICES
Animal sacrifices, as required by the Old Testament Law, were unable to atone for the sins of God’s people, according to Hebrews 10:1-4. This is because they are only a foreshadowing of what is to come. They aren’t the real thing. In and of themselves, the shadows are ineffective. They are pointing to the substance or the body, which is Jesus Christ.
We know that they are unable to take away sin and cleanse God’s people because they are offered every year (v.1b), they would have ceased to be offered (v.2). Because man has sinned against God, he must die. The demands of divine justice against sinners could never be met by sacrificial animals.
The only adequate sacrifice must be a Man of infinite perfection and worth—Jesus Christ, the God-Man!
THE SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST’S SACRIFICE
In Hebrews 10:5-10, Jesus Christ Himself reveals that God does not desire or find pleasure in sacrifices and offerings. However, Christ is not denying that God ordained animal sacrifices under Moses’ Law; rather, He is stating that they were ineffective in atoning for sin. Their goal was to point people to Jesus. In verses 5-7, His body is described as the perfect substitute for and a better sacrifice than ineffective animal sacrifices, a body that God prepared for His Son as He came to fulfill God’s will. The Septuagint’s Psalm 40:6 is quoted by the writer of Hebrews (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament). When applied to Christ, it refers to His incarnation and complete dedication to carrying out God’s will.
God’s will was for Christ to offer His body as the sin-bearer of His people once and for all. His perfect offering is what sanctifies or makes His people holy in God’s eyes (I Thessalonians 3:13). The Old Covenant’s sacrificial system, with its priests and rites, came to an end with Christ’s incarnation and work of redemption. He is the fulfillment of all Old Testament promises and types, as well as the New Covenant’s foundation; through Him alone, the believer approaches God with confidence.
The superiority of Christ’s priesthood and sacrifice is demonstrated in Hebrews 9:11-14, since Christ offered Himself and entered into the very presence of God (11); as the high priest, He offered once (12a); in His offering, He shed His own blood (12b, see also Heb. 9:22); and in dying for His people, He purifies them. Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice alone is able to take away every sin, cleanse our consciences of all guilt, and set us free to serve God in peace and joy (Hebrews 9:25-26).
THE PERFECTION OF CHRIST’S SACRIFICE
In Hebrews 10:11-14, notice that Christ sat down at the right hand of God (compared v.11) after His atoning work, a posture of finished work and emphasizing His singular offering that can never be repeated. The next event is not a repetition of His work but anticipation of that time until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet.
A man must be perfect in order to have right relationship with God, completely separated from sin. In Christ, what is impossible for a sinful man has been made possible. All who put their faith in Christ and His sacrifice are given a perfect, unchangeable, and eternal standing before God. He will remember their sins or lawless deeds no more.
Indeed, there is a fountain filled with blood. Though people mock this truth, this is our and their only hope. His blood is precious and powerful to save His sinners to the uttermost till they are completely saved and sin no more in glory.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Note: This lesson is from our weekly Youth Bible Study Based on Paul Washer’s Discovering the Glorious Gospel.
- Washer, Paul. Discovering the Glorious Gospel. New Albany, Mississippi, Media Gratiae, 2016.
- Wells, Paul. Cross Words : The Biblical Doctrine of the Atonement. Fearn, Ross-Shire, Scotland, Christian Focus, 2006.
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