"For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: 'Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come; In the volume of the book it is written of Me; To do Your will, O God.'' Previously saying, 'Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them' (which are offered according to the law), then He said, 'Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.' He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,' then He adds, 'Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin." (Hebrews 10:1-18, NKJV)
The thrust of the New Covenant is two-fold. First, it is built upon the accomplishments of Jesus Christ. Second, it involves the willing participation of the redeemed. The New covenant announces the involvement of men , i.e., "they shall all know Me." Through its marvelous promises, it also provides the incentive for men to eagerly seek that involvement. In this, as well as other ways, it is superior to the Old Covenant. Notwithstanding these marvelous provisions, throughout history men had tended to understate the New Covenant, not availing themselves of its benefits. A remarkable tendency to a system of law had nearly dominated the church from the beginning. This is not owing to any deficiency in the New Covenant itself.
It has occurred because men have not proclaimed the Gospel, announcing the superiority and effects of Christ's accomplishments. There is no acceptable excuse for the failure of men to do this. Jesus solemnly commissioned His followers to "preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), and "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations" (Lk 24:47).
Nothing in Scripture leads us to assume this is to be one announcement to every person--or that it is to cease once the individual has "received" Christ (John 1:12). The book of Hebrews is a case in point. It is nothing less than an opening of the Gospel of Christ, and an exposition of the New Covenant. The frequent references to Christ's death, intercession, and ministry will bolster the faith of the readers. The extensive commentary on the nature of the New Covenant shows how quickly the early church began to drift from the "glorious Gospel of the blessed God" (1 Tim 1:11).
Think of the extensive commentary on Christ's atonement throughout the Apostolic writings. Romans 5-8; 1 Cor 1-2,15; 2 Cor 5; Gal 3; Eph 1-2; Phil 2-3 . . . etc., etc. The atoning sacrifice of Christ is declared to be the means through which we obtain "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30). It is the incentive for morality (1 Cor 3:16-20), consideration of one another (Rom 15:7), the denial of self (Gal 2:20), and access to God with confidence (Eph 3:12). The death of Christ is associated with the destruction of the devil (Heb 2:14), the plundering of principalities and powers (Col 2:15), and the blotting out of the handwriting of ordinances that was against us (Col 2:14). It is the basis of His intercession (Heb 9:12) and of our acceptance by God (Eph 1:6). This is why God can now write His law upon our hearts and put it into our minds (Heb 8:10). It makes it possible for us to "know Him" and live in hope and confidence (Heb 8:11; Heb 3:6).
If the church becomes slack in its emphasis of the Gospel, all of the above benefits begin to wane in the consciousness of the people. Both wisdom and righteousness will begin to dissipate, and sin will assume the preeminent position. Confidence will no longer be present, nor will the true condition of the devil be known. Strange and divers doctrines will be embraced under the influence of demons (1 Tim 4:1), and Law will be preferred to grace. Such conditions are not minor. Nor, indeed, are they to be addressed with the wisdom of men. Instead of conferring with the wisdom of this world, men must return to the centrality Christ and His Gospel. Departures from the faith have taken place because of a neglect of the Gospel. The condition will be corrected only by a return to the Gospel.
This is what is being accomplished in Hebrews. We are hearing the Gospel of Christ expounded. The implications of the subsitutionary death of Christ are being opened to us. The nature of the New Covenant is delineated with power.
The Holy Spirit directs our thinking by anchoring it to Scripture. Six quotations are found in this passage. Each one undergirds the effectiveness of Christ's single offering--one sacrifice forever. Here we have true contextual preaching. The context is "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24). This is real expository preaching, where an exposition of the New Covenant is accomplished. The exposition is erected upon six Scriptural pillars--quotations from the Psalms and Jeremiah. Divine affirmation is the foundation of all sound doctrine--not human analysis. A brief review of them will prepare us for our study.
"Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure" (Psa 40:5-6). The New Covenant was required, among other things, because of the unacceptableness of the Old Covenant. The bodies of those sacrificial victims brought no satisfaction to God. The fragrance of those sacrifices was not "sweet" to God, for they did not provide a basis for the removal of sin. Therefore a "body" was prepared for Christ--a "body" that would become the ultimate sacrifice. The "body" was "prepared" by God Himself. It was the "power of the Highest" that overshadowed Mary, as God prepared the sacrificial body within her (Luke 1:35).
"Behold, I have come; In the volume of the book it is written of Me; To do Your will, O God" (Psa 40:7). The glory of this great salvation is the Divine initiative that characterizes it from beginning to end. God prepared the body, and "the Word" eagerly came to fulfill the Father's good pleasure. What was written "in the volume of the book"? The thrust of Scripture related to Christ Jesus. We assume this refers to the writings of Moses (Genesis thru Deuteronomy), since no other "book" was available to the Psalmist. The whole "volume" of the "book of Moses" (2 Chron 25:4; Mark 12:26) was about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is triumphant "Seed" promised in Genesis 3:15, the "Seed" through Whom the world would be blessed in Genesis 12:3, and the "Prophet" to Whom the people would hearken of Deuteronomy 18:15,18. He is the "Passover" introduced by the paschal lamb of Exodus 12, and "Lamb" to which the sacrificial animals of Leviticus pointed. The "volume of the book" pertained to Him!
"Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (Psa 40:6). Four kinds of offerings are mentioned in this text. "Sacrifice (animal offering--Lev 22)," "offering (meal offering--Lev 2)," "burnt offering (Lev 1,4)," and "sin offering (Lev 5-8)." All of these offerings were associated with sin and cleansing. They represented a thorough appeal to God. Some living and pure had to be offered to God. Something that grew and matured was offered to Him. The offering was to be consumed by fire, and the only reason for it was the sin of the people. Yet, in all of these offerings, God was not pleased. They were not what He wanted, they only pointed to what He wanted. They were offered precisely and meticulously, but they were not effective to accomplish the determined purpose of the Almighty.
"Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God" (Psa 40:7). Prophetically, the reason for the incarnation the Word is here declared. The best efforts by the best men failed to yield Divine satisfaction. Obedience to the most exacting ritual failed to produce a satisfied God. The Son of God came into the world to die--to offer an acceptable and satisfactory sacrifice to God.
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them" Jer 31:31). Here is a Divine summation of New Covenant experience: the transformation of fallen men to think in harmony with Deity. Where this does not exist, the individual is not part of the New Covenant, for "this IS the covenant . . . " A propensity to spirituality is revolutionary, yet that is precisely what occurs in the New Covenant.
"Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Jer 31:34). As long as God remembers the sins of humanity, there is no hope of recovery. It is no enough to do enough works to supposedly outweigh transgression [which is not possible]. An impact must first be made upon God before one can be made upon man. Something must be done that will induce God to never again remember the sin of the justified one.
A type, or shadow, is instructional, even preparatory, but has no power. "For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect." The "shadow" was not itself good, but projected an image of "good things to come." The contribution made by the Law was owing to the coming of Messiah. Were it not for that, the Law would have left men in a condemned state, with no advantage whatsoever. It was the "very image of the things" the Law projected that made it profitable in any sense. It was never designed to be permanent--never given to justify.
We are not dealing with something that was not probable, but with something that was IMPOSSIBLE. Upon the basis of the sacrifices offered under the Law, it was not possible to make the "comers," or approaching ones, "perfect." Mind you, they did not run from God, but approached Him. They did not ignore their sin, but brought a stipulated sacrifice in acknowledge of their transgression. Yet, they did not become "perfect" in their conscience. They never knew the joy of sins forgiven! They never rejoiced in Divine acceptance.
We must learn from this that a cleansed conscience is imperative. Without it, men can neither approach the Lord nor live in His presence. What is more, apart from that approach and life, there is no hope of being brought to glory. The Old Covenant was one of aloofness. Because it did not take away sin, it erected a barrier between God and man--the barrier of a contaminated conscience.
The New Covenant is one of nearness, not aloofness. There is no provision in Christ for remaining at a distance from God. If one chooses to live in ignorement of Divine provision, he will receive none. There are no safe "outskirts" in the city of Zion--no "rural areas," so to speak. Because men find this exceedingly difficult to accept, the ordained procedures of sin offerings is here introduced. Israel was a body of people chosen by the Lord. They received the oracles of God, together with an extensive sacrificial system. The procedures involved in that sacrificial system had no power to purify the conscience of the people. They were at a distance from God, and the procedures only confirmed that to be the case.
It is imperative that we do not take the blessings of the New Covenant for granted. What is more, we will find the power of the New Covenant is owing to what Jesus did, not what we do. This does not exclude our involvement. Rather, it sanctifies it.
Now we come to the heart of the matter. We will find that apart from the sanctifying blood of Christ, men have never been, nor will they ever be, able to stand before God. Their own conscience will drive them from His presence. Fear will strike every mortal down that stands before God apart from the sacrifice of Christ Jesus! Because of man's propensity to trust in his own accomplishments, the Spirit drives this point home to us. He will take the Law at its highest and most productive point--during the sacrifice of atonement--and unveil its powerlessness. The powerlessness of the Law is seen in its inability to cleanse the conscience.
"But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year." Under the Old Covenant, the closer one came to God, the more acute was the awareness of sin. The offering for sin itself was identified by words that struck the conscience of the sinner--"SIN OFFERING" (Ex 29:14,36; 30:10; Lev 4,5,6 . . . etc.). Under the Law, SIN was accentuated, not offering. Men could not come before God apart from a procedure that addressed their sin. In the offerings, the mercy of God was not seen, but the sinfulness of man. The death of an innocent victim had to precede every approach to the Almighty! Those who approached were sinners! They were sinners! They were sinners! They could not forget it. They were sinners! They were guilty, defiled, and unworthy!
Under Law, in the presence of the Almighty, the spotlight was turned on sin! Sin was the focus! Guilt was the point! Transgression was the emphasis in the mind of the people. People simply could not stand before the Lord without being smitten with the enormity of their sin! This effect is frequently mentioned in Scripture. When Israel confronted a veiled God at Sinai, they thought they were going to die. "And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Ex 20:19). When an angel came to announce the birth of Samson, the experience was so impressive it is written, "And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God" (Judges 13:22). Gideon had a similar experience when he confronted an angel (Judges 6:22-23). When Isaiah say the Lord, high and lifted up, he cried, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (Isa 6:5). The Lord showed Zechariah a vision in which Joshua the high priest was "standing before the angel of the Lord." Although the Lord had plucked Joshua "from the fire," he was still "clothed with filthy garments," denoting an acute consciousness of sin. Too, Satan was at his right hand to "resist him" (Zech 3:1ff). There was no direct communication with Joshua until he had been provided clothed with a change of raiment, and a clean mitre of acceptance place upon his head (3:4-5). No man could stand before God without becoming acutely aware of his sin and sinfulness!
I cannot leave this section without commenting on the seriousness of an approach to God that does not include a cleansed conscience. I speak now to those who have believed and obeyed the Gospel of Christ. When coming to God, you come through Christ Jesus, and Him alone. You dare not approach Him upon the basis of your own achievement. The blood of Christ is the means by which your conscience is cleansed, not the exactness of procedure or the fulfillment of His demands. My heart bleeds for myriads of people who lie before humanly devised altars, seeking acceptance upon the basis of their prayers, their works, or some religious experience. With contaminated consciences they lie prostrate before the Lord seeking merit, yet acutely aware they have none in themselves.
They regularly hear a false gospel that reminds them of their sinnerhood. They suppose that scolding will somehow make them suitable to enter the presence of the Lord, yet their conscience confirms this is not the case. Perhaps another man can gain acceptance for them. If saints gather around them and plead for them, maybe they will be able to obtain the blessing, or have their conscience cleansed at last. The thought of standing before God makes them tremble and quake, and they are told this is good--yet they sense it is not. Thinking they are close to God, they are actually at a distance, because their contaminated conscience will not allow them to be close. Trembling in the outer court, they are told they are in the Divine Presence. The travesty of such a religion cannot be overstated. Jesus did not offer Himself without spot to God to sanctify this kind of approach. Such existed before Christ. It was inadequate then, and it is even more inadequate today!
The pleasure of God is critical to Divine acceptance. If His eternal purpose is not served--if His ultimate will is not fulfilled--there is no hope of human acceptance. We are not speaking of meeting technical requirements under the Law. That was achieved in the sacrificial system. The animals were prepared for sacrifice with remarkable precision. The proper animals were selected (Lev 1:3). They were cut into pieces appropriately (Lev 1:6). Parts were meticulously washed according to revealed procedure (Lev 1:9). The arrangement of the pieces upon the altar were according to exacting procedure (Lev 1:12). Carcases were consumed with fire outside the camp (Lev 4:21). Even the dung of the animal, with the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, were burned on wood with fire (Lev 4:11- 12). Still, it is written, "In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure . . . Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law)."
The number of sacrifices offered for sin were staggering. Micah said it well when he asked, "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" (Micah 6:7). Take, for example, the dedication of Solomon's temple. The sacrifices offered to God at that time are mind boggling. Hear the word of the Lord. "And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the LORD, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep" (1 Kgs 8:62-63). The offerings (including burnt offerings, meal offerings, and peace offerings) were so voluminous, the brazen altar could not hold them (1 Kgs 8:64). If the AMOUNT of offerings could obtain merit, surely this would be the occasion where that would be accomplished. 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep! God, however, was not pleased with that massive offering. It is not what He desired!
By this, the Spirit means the "eternal purpose" of God was not fulfilled by the offerings. They did not take away sin. They did not cleanse the conscience. They did not enable the people to enter into His presence. They did not free the Lord to bless the people as He desired. The sacrifices were not contaminated by sin, were not blemished, and had done nothing worthy of death. But they were not a moral creation. They had not sinned, but neither had they resisted temptation. They had not violated the will of God, but neither had they participated in it. They pointed to the necessity of a sacrifice, but they were not themselves an acceptable sacrifice. They were precisely offered in accordance with the holy Law, but they were not effective to accomplish the purpose of the Almighty. The people remained the same!
Suffice it to say, if God was not pleased with such sacrifices, there will be no lasting satisfaction for those who offer them, as well as those for whom they are offered. God cannot be satisfied with less than Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. If men do not come to God through Christ, they cannot come! God does not desire less than Christ, and is not pleased with anything less than Him. Once learned, that single lesson propels one into unparalleled involvement in the will of the Lord. It is projected in the marvelous confession of Paul, and of which I never tire. "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:7-14, NIV). The Apostle saw what satisfied God, and determined it would also be satisfying for him.
The incarnation of Christ is one of the great pillars of the faith. The Spirit's approach to this singular event is not that of a melancholy event, much like that portrayed during Christmas holidays. Our text has the Word Himself commenting on the incarnation, or enfleshment of Deity ."But a body You have prepared for Me."
The "YOU" is the Father. He is the One behind our salvation--the One against Whom we have sinned. It was "the power of the Highest" that overshadowed Mary, protecting and enabling her to bear the Son of God. There has never before nor since been a body prepared as this one. Isaac's body was miraculously prepared within the formerly barren and aged womb of Sarah. The body of John the Baptist was prepared in Elizabeth, stricken with years. But their bodies were not like that of Christ. They were born to live, Jesus was born to die!
The body of Christ was a sacrificial body. He came into the world to bear the brunt of Divine wrath, suffer, and die for the sins of the world. He provides an example for us, but that is not the primary reason for Him coming. He had compassion on the multitudes around Him, but that is not the reason for His entrance into the world. We must not look at Jesus "according to the flesh," or as one of our peers (2 Cor 5:16). His birth was the prelude to His death! It was the Divine means of providing an acceptable sacrifice for sin!
The Son was sent so God could "condemn sin the flesh" (Rom 8:3). Jesus was "made of a woman, made under the Law" in order to "redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal 4:4). His obedience is pointedly declared. "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil 2:8). How wonderfully this is declared preciously in this book. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb 2:14-15).
The Lord Jesus could not effect our salvation without dying! The situation was that bad! God could not fulfill his eternal purpose without the sinless sacrifice of His only begotten Son. The situation was that serious! The Creator of the worlds could not bring us to God without a prepared body, in which He would bear the sins of the world and endure the curse of the Almighty. The situation was that challenging!
This body was "prepared" before the foundation of the world. The universe was created with this "body" in the mind of the Lord! From the beginning, the Word contemplated His entrance into defiled realm, with defiled people! He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8). Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Peter said it this way; "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" (1 Pet 1:18- 20).
Those who minimize sin make Jesus insignificant. When men emphasize social, political, and interpersonal relationships, they at once push Jesus into the background. A body was not prepared for Him to address political matters. That did not require an incarnation. God can correct political entities from without a sacrifice for sin, as He did Pharaoh, Sihon, Og, Nebuchaddnezzar, Belshazzar, and Herod. He can raise up a nation from one man, deliver then from a bondage that exceeded 400 years, and cause them to pass through a Sea, without a satisfying sacrifice for sin! He can open the womb of the barren, grant unparalleled wisdom to Solomon, and deliver men from lions and fire without having, at that time, what He really desired. But He could not take away the sin of the world without preparing a body for His Son. He could not provide free access to Himself without the Word become flesh, dwelling among us, and laying down His life!
Fulfilling the will of the Father was uppermost in the mind of Jesus Christ. "Behold, I have come; In the volume of the book it is written of Me; To do Your will, O God . . .Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." Jesus had compassion on the people, but His focus was the will of the Father. He was not pleased with Herod the "fox" (Lk 13:32), but His mind was set on doing the will of God. He loved to teach the multitudes, to open the things of the Kingdom to His disciples, and to go about doing good, but His mind was fixed on fulfilling the will of the Lord.
His entire life was but a prelude to His death. He brought His prodigious earthly ministry to a grinding halt when the time came for Him to die. Of that time it is written, "And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). This was Christ's "meat" His source of satisfaction. He said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34). Speaking of His entrance into the world, he said, "For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38).
In His death, Christ accomplished the will of God. Here we learn of is dissolution of the first covenant. It did not accomplish the purpose of God, and thus must ultimately be removed. It could not, however, be removed until sin had been removed. The first covenant [embodied in the words of the ten commandments, which were called "the words of the covenant" (Ex 34:28)] defined and condemned sin. As long as sin remained, that covenant remained.
However, now that Jesus was put sin away, the first covenant is also taken away, to be replaced by a better covenant, established upon better promises (Heb 8:6). How glorious the words: "He takes away the first . . . " No more approach to God with inadequate sacrifices! No longer will men offer to God sacrifices in which He has no pleasure and which He does not desire! The time of ineffective sacrifices is now brought to an end. Defiled consciences will now be cleansed, and the way to God opened wide to those once contaminated with sin! No longer will those approaching God be under a covenant that is " weak through the flesh." The people of God will not have a covenant described as "weak and beggarly elements of the world" (Gal 4:9)--NO MORE! That covenant has been TAKEN AWAY by the Lord Jesus. He took it away when He died! No longer does the Law "stop" the mouths of covenant-people, forbidding them access to God! No longer do we have a covenant that is "not of faith" (Gal 3:12).
Because of Jesus, we now have a New Covenant--a new kind of covenant! It is not a philosophical covenant, but an established one. It is not a mere idea, but it is a way to God. It is now in place because the former covenant has been taken away in order " . . . that He may establish the second." Mind you, this covenant is "established"--it is in place! In former ages, "many prophets and righteous men" anticipated such a covenant (Matt 13:17). Even righteous "kings" longed for such days (Luke 10:24). But the covenant was not established in their days. Prophets that foretold the glorious covenant now enjoyed by us were told it was not for them. I never tire of recalling Peter's words on this matter. "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look" (1 Pet 1:10-12, NASB).
But the covenant is "established" now! We can come to God with a cleansed conscience, convinced our sins have been removed from us as far as the East is from the West! The law of God can now be written upon your heart and put into your mind. Now you can know the Lord, intimately and fruitfully. In this time, you can be the people of God, and He can be your God. That is the covenantal benefits that are now in place. This is the "day of salvation" in which spiritually nourishment is freely ministered (2 Cor 6:2). Away with a religion that keeps people at a distance from God, robbing them of the knowledge of God and the awareness of sins forgiven! The New Covenant has been established! It is in place, and the blessings of the Lord are available to those who unqualifiedly receive the Son.
The consequences of sin are so gigantic, that multitudes still find it difficult to believe they are accepted in Christ. Beholding their own deficiencies, they imagine that God will surely have nothing to do with them. They have not done enough. They have not measured up to their own expectations, to say nothing of those of God. How can they be received by the great God of heaven? The answer is found in the single sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant it ratified! "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
"That will" is the New Covenant. It is not so much a "will" in the sense of a last will and testament, although that is surely involved. The word "will" underscores God good pleasure with the sacrifice of Christ. Remember, God was not pleased with the sacrifices offered under the Law. He is, however, "well pleased" with the sacrifice of His Son. The New Covenant is nothing less than the expression of that good pleasure! Because of the satisfaction induced by Christ's willing sacrifice, the offering of Christ's body is effective. That single sacrifice has "sanctified" us, setting us apart for God.
The word "sanctified" is here used in a high sense. This is not a sanctification we do, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4. There surely is a work for us in salvation--one which requires diligent effort on our part. We are to "cleanse" ourselves of "all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord" (2 Cor 7:1). No doctrine must ever be allowed that will diminish the importance of this activity. It is absolutely requisite for every child of God, and "without" such holiness, "no man shall see the Lord" (Heb 12:4). But this is not the point of this text.
Practical sanctification, if I may use that term, can only be accomplished within the context of Divine acceptance. What is more, God cannot undergird our effort if an acceptable sacrifice has not been accomplished. The point of this text is this: Christ's offering has brought believers into the realm of blessing. Their efforts are now undergirded by omnipotence. Sanctification is frequently mentioned from this perspective. "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30). "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thess 2:13). "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:2). " . . . as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph 5:25-26). "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate" (Heb 13:12).
God's people have already been set apart for God. Set apart for blessing! Set apart for Divine employment! Set apart for empowerment! There is no need to linger in the outer court, and remain in aloofness from your God. The embrace of Christ's death, or "faith in the blood" (Rom 3:25), qualifies you! You can come near and find mercy and grace to help in the time of need! You have been set apart for God "by the offering of the body of Christ once for all.!"
For four thousand years, God waited patiently for the appointed sacrifice. He tolerated the sins of His people in anticipation of that solitary sacrifice. Animal sacrifices did not satisfy Him--not for a year or even a day! He did not want many sacrifices, but an effective one! Jesus accomplished His will! "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God."
By saying "this Man," at least two things are underscored. First, Jesus is compared with all the righteous men of all ages. None of them could fulfill God's good please. None of them could accomplish the will of God so He could receive the people freely. "But this Man," Christ Jesus, DID accomplish that will--and He did so with a single sacrifice. Secondly, a member of the race saved the race! "This Man" was one of us, "made of a woman, made under the Law" (Gal 4:4).
The accomplishment was so thorough, no further consideration of a sacrifice for sin is entertained in heaven! That accentuates the quality of this sacrifice. The Lord Jesus was spotless, without blemish or flaw of any sort. He "did no sin, neither was any guile found in His mouth" (1 Pet 2:22). He was "made to be sin, Who knew no sin" (2 Cor 5:21). From the beginning of His consciousness to His death, He "loved righteousness and hated iniquity" (Heb 1:9). He was tempted in every way we are, "yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). In the most precise and thorough way, He "is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Heb 7:26). He was truly "a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet 1:19).
"And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin" (1 John 3:5). Once sin was "taken away," God was satisfied, and Jesus was seated at His right hand. No more sacrifice is required! Now, it only remains for that one sacrifice to become the focus of men, as it is the focus in heaven. This is not a simplistic thing! The sacrifice was offered to God! It was offered by an able Savior, but also by a willing One! Because it satisfied Him, it is now offered to us!
The Gospel contains some expressions that are especially challenging. Here is one of them. "For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified." Some versions the latter part of this verse, "perfected forever those who are BEING sanctified," or "being made holy" (NKJV, NIV). This particular view introduces a difficulty. How has God "perfected forever," or "made perfect for all time" (NASB) those that are being made holy? He has made individuals fully accepted in Christ and completely exonerated them because of the "one offering." Upon the basis of that "one offering," He is working in them "both to will and to do of His own good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). Because of that solitary sacrifice God can "make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever" (Heb 13:21).
There WILL never be another basis of acceptance! There CAN never be another basis of perfection! Salvation is "eternal," and only eternal (Heb 5:9). If there are those who imagine this means they are not themselves involved in the process, let them think again. The purpose of Christ's death is to bring us into the salvation. We partake of it through faith, and we maintain that involvement through faith. By saying "perfected forever," the Spirit builds the confidence of the believer. They need not search for a better or alternative way. They are foolish to ignore this way. Perfection can be found in Christ alone, and it deals with an eternal relationship. There are no "quick and temporal fixes" in Christ Jesus--no seasonal or cyclical remedies! You are never more accepted than you are in Christ, never more perfected than you are in Christ! Your role in the matter is to fight to maintain that perspective! Your faith is the means by which you maintain your view and grasp of the situation. It is eternal, but your faith is not! It is a daily matter, involving a daily fight, and daily commitment!
"But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us . . . " Here the Word of God is personalized to us. The words to which we are referred were written hundreds of years before Christ. Yet, the Spirit witnesses them to us, enlivening them to our spirits. Jeremiah wrote them for us, and the Spirit speaks them to us. Those, therefore, who close their minds to the words of the prophets turn their ears from the witness of the Holy Spirit.
Now the Spirit summarizes the New Covenant. He is proving to us its effectiveness and glory. "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them." Under this arrangement it becomes absurd to seek justification by the works of the Law, or return to a religion of empty procedure. How absurd it is to refuse a covenant in which Divine satisfaction has been achieved--a covenant where the Divine nature can be received by those who were once alienated! God "puts" His "laws into" our "hearts" because of the pleasing sacrifice of Christ, not because of the excellence of our works or the ardentness of our efforts. God cannot work with people who are at variance with Himself. Thanks be unto Him for a sacrifice so great and so effective that God can remain righteous while writing His laws upon our minds, and putting them in our hearts!
"Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin." Remember, there has been only "ONE" acceptable sacrifice. We know it is acceptable because the One that offered it has returned to heaven. He is now seated on the right hand of God because there is no more work for Him to do upon the earth--no more sacrifice for Him to offer. Under the Law, High Priests offered sacrifices continually. That condition was required because their sacrifices were not pleasing to God. They were not what He desired. But Jesus has offered what God wanted, what He purposed from the foundation of the world. The lack of requirement for further sacrifice proves sin has been removed, and we may draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith. Praise the Lord!