Hebrews 10:5-7 (ESV)
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
In many ways, the book of Hebrews is the owner’s manual for the Old Testament sacrificial system. What are all those passages about and how do we properly understand them? For the writer of that important letter, the ultimate answer was that everything found their meaning in the Person and work of Jesus—a better servant, a better prophet, a better priest. In Hebrews 10:1-4, the writer to this group of Jewish believers reminds them that the sacrificial system was merely “a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.” It was neither the image of the thing nor the exact representation of it (as Christ is spoken to be of God in 1:1-4). The writer echoes the same argument used in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Gal. 3:21-25): “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law…But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith….” Those sacrifices (which were probably still being offered at the temple at the writing of this letter) served only as a reminder of sins—for it is indeed impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. This is the real reason for the presence of the law—not that it would cleanse men and women from their sins, but that it would highlight their sins so that when the fullness of time came and Christ appeared, they might be redeemed from being under the law!
In his commentary, Matthew Henry notes three main reasons why the OT sacrificial system is to be seen as having an essential defect in it with regard to salvation. It is important to note that the Law itself is perfect and holy and altogether good simply because it is the law of God. But with respect to salvation, it is inadequate to save anyone. Henry writes:
first, such a system was not of the same nature with us who sinned; secondly, the sacrifices were not of sufficient value to make satisfaction for the affronts offered to the justice and government of God; and thirdly, the beasts offered up under the law could not consent to put themselves in the sinner’s room and place.
Given the nature of the offense, the nature of the offended, and the nature of the one sacrificed, the OT sacrificial system is shown to be inadequate to take away man’s sin. After one Day of Atonement, there would always be a need for more, and more, and more! But not so with Christ!
Here we have a remarkable contrast—“THEREFORE, when He came into the world…!” For what was impossible without Christ is now made possible in Him! Here comes One Who knows the will of the Father and desires to do it! Here comes One in total submission to the will of the Father—One Who understands the price to be paid, the justice to be satisfied. He is not like the countless bulls and goats that were laid on the altar without understanding; for He comes willingly and voluntarily consenting to substitute Himself in the sinner’s place! Matthew Henry then notes, “Whereas now, under the gospel, the atonement is perfect, and not to be repeated; and the sinner, once pardoned, is ever pardoned as to his state, and only needs to renew his repentance and faith , that he may have a comfortable sense of a continued pardon.”
As you prepare to participate in the Lord’s Supper this coming Lord’s Day, take time to renew your repentance and faith! Meditate upon this passage of Scripture and give thanks to God for His perfect sacrifice in His Son on your behalf. Give time to the meditation of 1 Corinthians 11:23-32. Reflect anew upon the obedience of Christ as He came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost—among whom we would still be numbered, but for His grace! He has come to do the Father’s will—and “by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10). Praise be to God for His unspeakable gift! Come with great joy to the supper of our Lord!
In the Name of Christ, our Sufficient Savior,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar