Friday, January 30, 2015

Hebrews 10:1-18 He is Sitting Down!

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14 NIV)

In the first half of this chapter of Hebrews, the author is repeating and summing up his argument to the Hebrew believers who were so tempted to return to their old ways under the Law. He reminds them that the sacrifices made by the priests annually under the Old Covenant were a reminder that in spite of all of that continual flow of the blood of the lambs offered on the altar in the Holy of Holies, the people were still sinners! Nothing had changed about their condition before God. The priest had to come back year after year.

But the sacrifice of the Lamb of God settled the issue once and for all. The price for our sins, past, present, and future, was paid in full. So much so, that Jesus is now sitting down at the right hand of God. As Jon Courson notes in his Application Commentary: New Testament, Jesus isn’t wringing His hands or worrying or pacing or running in all directions trying to figure out how to save us. He already completed the work of salvation. So, He SAT DOWN!

Courson points out that in Luke 22:19, when handing out the bread to His disciples at the last supper, Jesus told them, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” We weren’t to do it in remembrance of our sin - we aren’t to dwell on our sin, because He has taken it away. We are to remember the Savior and His finished work. Communion is not a sacrifice that takes away our sin. It is a celebration of the Savior who already took that sin on Himself and paid the price for our salvation.

The writer completes his argument with a reference to how the Holy Spirit pointed to this in the Old Testament:

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 

“This is the covenant I will make with them

    after that time, says the Lord.

I will put my laws in their hearts,

    and I will write them on their minds.”  

Then he adds: 

“Their sins and lawless acts

    I will remember no more.” 

 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. (vs.15-18)

Oh my goodness! How I love that last verse! Jesus is our superior Sacrifice, our superior High Priest, and our superior Savior! The Old Covenant showed us our need for Him, but the New Covenant settles the issue of sin once and for all. And this is the end of the author’s arguments, as well. As we move into the final chapters of Hebrews, we will see the turn in the book to the “So what?” Okay - if our sins have been paid for -what does that mean to you and me practically in our everyday living out? What does that look like? That will be the focus as we move forward into what I think is the best part of this book. Cannot even wait!!!  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hebrews 9 Once and For All!

I’m back! Been working like crazy in this new job, and I’m on a different schedule, so I’m trying to adjust. But there is so much ahead for us in this book of Hebrews, I cannot let it go!

Chapter 8 of Hebrews began to sum up all of the previous chapters, reminding us of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood. In chapter 9, the writer extols the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice. The writer reminds his Hebrew readers of the annual sacrifice of blood made on behalf of the people by the High Priest. The High Priest entered into the Most Holy Place of the temple once a year to offer a blood sacrifice. The writer indicates that these sacrifices, which were prophetic symbols of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice were made over and over, because they could not fix the problem of sin on a permanent basis:

This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.  They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. (Hebrews 9:9-10)

However, Christ’s sacrifice did what the blood of animals could not do:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.  The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!  

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (9:11-15)

Notice the emphasis by repetition of the word eternal. He obtained eternal redemption, through the eternal Spirit, so that we might have an eternal inheritance. There is nothing temporary about the work Christ accomplished. This is why He could say from the cross, “It is finished.”

Repetition of another phrase stands out in this book: once for all. The writer uses this phrase three times, in verse 11, verse 28, and then in chapter 10, verse 10.

Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,  so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (9:25-28)

Because Christ’s sacrifice did the work of our salvation, it does not need to be repeated over and over. It’s done. The writer is reminding these Hebrew believers, who were missing their old ways and were tempted to deny grace and go back into a system of works, that Christ’s sacrifice is so superior to the shadow of the Old Testament sacrifices. Why in the world would anyone want to return to and cling to rituals that did nothing to save us, when Christ has accomplished that work?

I’m going to point out one final verse here that I think should not be overlooked. Verse 27 says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. . .” This is a reminder to us that we only get one life, one chance to receive this gift of salvation. Once you die there is no other opportunity to receive Christ’s sacrifice. There is no reincarnation with multiple times to improve. If there were multiple chances to come back and learn and grow spiritually, wouldn’t the world be getting better and better as everyone improves? All evidence is to the contrary!

There is no preaching on the other side to convince someone of the truth. We have this one chance to receive it and act on it. Since none of us knows when that day of judgment will be for us individually, shouldn’t we take this seriously? Shouldn’t we settle it and then do all we can to tell others?

Just sayin’. . .