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THE PERFECT SACRIFICE OF CHRIST

Hebrews 9:23-10:18
Key Verse: 10:14

Merry Christ! May we go deeper into the meaning of Christmas, Christ’s coming into this world. As we learned in the last lesson, we thank and praise Jesus who entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood. Jesus shed his blood for our sins. Our sin demanded the death and so the blood of the holy, blameless, pure and innocent one. In this grace our conscience can be cleansed and we can serve the living God. Our previous message’s title was “the Blood of Christ”, and today’s message is entitled “The Perfect Sacrifice of Christ.” In today’s passage the word, “sacrifice” is written 12 times, and 4 times it refers to Christ. His blood and sacrifice are obviously linked together. In today passage we can think of two amazing things: to take away sin and to make us holy and perfect. Who can take away sin, my sins and the sins of many people? How can it be possible? And who can make us holy and perfect? Can we be made holy and perfect forever? The answer is incredibly “yes” because of his sacrifice. This can be a profound meaning of Christmas, why he came into this world. Let’s think about it.

First, to do away with sin (9:23-28). In verse 23, “It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” Again, animals’ blood would not work at all for the heavenly things. Then verse 24 says, “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself.” It is true that Jesus never entered a man-made earthly sanctuary at all, because he did not obtain high priestly office in this world. He had no part with that position and the earthly tabernacle. He entered heaven itself by his own blood when he died on the cross. This was done in the spiritual realm. Why did he enter heaven itself? And verse 24b says, “now to appear for us in God’s presence.” Now he is in the presence of God on our behalf, to intercede for us. We have so many requests, while we are helpless to handle our situations. But when we come to God through him, presenting our requests to God, Christ Jesus intercedes for us. What a grace!

And in verses 25 and 26a. “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. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.” As for Christ’s suffering, one time was enough. Many times of such suffering is unthinkable. He entered heaven at one time, permanently. Now he is there for us, transcending space.

Look at verse 26b, “But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” The end of the ages, “the culmination of the ages”, is brought about through Jesus’ coming into the world. Here again, the phrase “once for all” is very significant. It comes from the Greek word “hapax” (ἅπαξ). This means “a single occurrence to the exclusion of any other similar occurrence; once and for all, once and never again.” Jesus’ coming and death on the cross happened once in history, and will never happen again. Yet it effects eternally the past, the present and the future. Christ’s coming and death on the cross is not merely an historical event like men walking on the moon. Its effect is not merely linear. The Eternal God acted in time and space and it impacts all eternity. Thus his coming and sacrifice transcends time and so is relevant to me.

And the purpose of his coming is to do away with sin. This is truly amazing description. In today’s passage this kind expression is written 4 times: “do away with sin” (9:26), “to take away the sins of many people” (9:28), “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4), “the same sacrifices which can never take away sin” (10:11). At the beginning there was no sin in the world. Then sin entered the world though one man. How it happened is this: In the Garden of Eden the devil tempted Eve, saying something like this, “God does not love you. That’s why he forbid you to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God is preserving something really good for himself. He does not truly want you to be happy.” After hearing Satan’s voice, the woman became sick with the disease of doubt. Then in a matter of time she ate the forbidden fruit and fell into Satan’s kingdom of darkness from God’s kingdom of light. And she shared the forbidden fruit with her husband. Thus man fell. That was the tragic turning point in human history. Since then sin spread to all men (Ro 5:12). At the time of Noah sin reached the climax. Then God judged the world with the flood. All wiped out except Noah and those who were in the ark. Sin seemed to be removed from the world. Yet, sin was still there in the hearts of Noah and his seven family members. Again sin grew and covered the whole world. God’s judgement of deluge could not do away with sin.

Then how amazing it is that Jesus came to do away with sin. How did he do it? It was through the sacrifice of himself. Sacrifice sounds good, but in fact it is a terrible thing. Particularly, the sacrifice of himself, the human sacrifice, was a horrible one. In the Old Testament God prohibited such sacrifice. But in the New Testament God did it to his Son. His whole body was tortured, beaten and smitten, nailed and pierced, severely wounded and crushed and soaked with blood. Not only his physical but his mental suffering and anguish was more than one could fathom. For he was completely forsaken by God at that moment. It was God’s thorough full punishment upon him due to man’s sins. In this wrath God himself expressed his deep sorrow in silence. The nature also seemed to be mourning responding this way, “darkness came over the whole land and the sun stopped shining.” Finally the Son said, “It is finished” and breathed his last. At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist said, “Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Then at the end of his ministry, he said on the cross, “It is finished.” It meant the full payment for man’s sin was made. In this way he took away sins. It is like our debt completely erased, as in the case of the debt being paid back fully. His sacrifice is more than enough. One sacrifice of himself was more than sufficient, taking away my sins, the sin of many people.

So the angel Gabriel’s message to Mary was, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Also at the time of Jesus’ birth an angel of the Lord said to the shepherds, “Today in the time of David a Saviour has been born to you” (2:11). Jesus is our Saviour who saves us from our sins.

Verses 27 and 28 say, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once…” It is true that all men die once. No one dies twice or more. In the same way Christ also died once. Yet, his death was different from the death of all other men, who die as the wages of their sin and are to face judgment. Christ’s death was the death of sacrifice of atonement for man’s sinsHe was sacrificed once as man dies once. As death is unquestionable and undisputable, so is his sacrifice. He was sacrificed to take away the sins of many people, as we considered before. So this description also implies that his sacrifice transcends judgment. And he will appear second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. This salvation will be a complete salvation in glory and honour, as expressed in eternal salvation, eternal redemption and the promised eternal inheritance. This is the glorious hope of believers.

Though we have the final victory, while living in this world we still struggle with the power of sin and death in practical life. Oscar Cullman expressed this truth through the analogy of D-Day and V-Day. When the allied forces landed at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, they fought and won the decisive battle of World War II. However, some fighting still remained from that day until the final victory was declared on V-Day. We are living in between D-Day and V-Day. So we struggle in our daily lives, but we have assurance of final victory. When we think about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, taking away our sins and transcending space, time and judgment, we are forever grateful for Our Lord Christ Jesus with the assurance of our salvation. And in this grace we become sensitive to sin and hate sin and struggle against sin. We should not be deceived by sin and never embrace sin. The author of Hebrews says 12:4, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” This is an encouragement for us to resist and fight against sin in me and in our beloved ones to the point of shedding blood, since he shed his blood for all our sins. It is to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5). We also should put to death unbelief, disobedience and the sin of blaming.

In this part we thank and praise God for Christ Jesus who has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself and who will appear a second time to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Second, to make us perfect forever (10:1-18). In verse 1, “The law is only a shadow of the good things of that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” In 7:19 it was written about the law, “(for the law made nothing perfect).” Here it is written again in detailed expression. The law is not the realities themselves. It can never make perfect those who draw near to worship, although the same sacrifices are repeated endlessly year after year. Then in verse 2, “If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.” Worshipers’ desire is to be cleansed completely and no longer feel guilty for their sins. And in verses 3 and 4, “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” An annual reminder of sins is a painful thing, yet unavoidable, waiting for something better, actually something perfect. It is an obvious statement that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. In our understanding, taking away man’s sins had to be required of higher blood or at least the same level of blood.

In this situation what was done? In verses 5-7, “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.’” This is a quotation from Psalm 40:6-8. Then in verses 8 and 9, the author straightforwardly interprets this almost repeating the words: “First he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’ (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.” God’s will was the sacrifice of the body he prepared for the Son. The interpretation is, “He sets aside the first to establish the second.” The first and the second, the two things can never go together. The first one had to be set aside to establish the second.

These verses tell us Jesus’ motivation in coming into the world. It was to please God by offering himself as a sacrifice in obedience to God’s will. In the Levitical sacrificial system there were five kinds of offerings: sin, guilt, burnt, grain, and fellowship. Sin and guilt offerings were sacrifices of expiation. Burnt offerings and grain offerings were sacrifices for consecration. Fellowship offerings were sacrifices for communion, and included vow offerings, thank offerings and freewill offerings. These offerings were required by law for anyone to draw near to God. Though God prescribed these offerings, he was not really satisfied by them (8). Jesus knew God’s heart; what he really wanted was a perfect sacrifice which could satisfy his holy righteousness and justice. What can be a perfect sacrifice? It was Jesus himself. Jesus realized that he had to sacrifice himself for God to be pleased. It was God’s will. This meant that Jesus needed to put aside his heavenly glory and become flesh and to be despised and rejected by people, to suffer and be killed. Anyone who knows this will would try to escape it by any means. But Jesus, knowing all that would happen, voluntarily offered himself. He said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will” (9a). In this way he pleased God. Here we see Christ’s beautiful heart of love and obedience to the Father. He set aside the first covenant sacrifice and established the new covenant sacrifice according to God’s will (9b). This was also well expressed in the Son’s prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane right before the cross, “Father, take this cup from me, yet not what I will but you will” (Mk 14:6).

Then the author said in verse 10, “And by that will we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” In the first part we thought of his coming purpose of this world to take away the sins of many people by the sacrifice of himself. Now here we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, that is, by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. Since he took away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of his body. Of course, after believing in Jesus, we are still full of weaknesses and shortcoming and are to be sanctified more and more. Yet, from God’s viewpoint we have been made holy. So we are called saints. That’s why Apostle Paul said in Romans 1:7, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” And also in 2 Corinthians 1:1, “To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia” and Ephesians 1:1, “To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus,” and in Philippians 1:1, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi…” and in Colossians 1:12, “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” and many more in other passages. This belief is very important. The author has written in 2:11, “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.” We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Christ Jesus. In that amazing grace we are to grow in holiness constantly.

Here we need to arrange “once for all” statement. It is written 5 times in Hebrews. It is written 3 time concerning his sacrifice and blood: in 7:27, “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” and in 9:12, “He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood” and in 10:10, “we have been made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ one for all.” In this case the Greek is “ephapax” (ἐφάπαξ).And the expression is used one time concerning his first coming as written in 9:26, “…But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages…” and one time concerning the wish of the cleansing of the worshipers in 10:2, “For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all…” In this case the Greek word is “hapax” (ἅπαξ). Apostle Paul also said in Romans 6:10, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives for God” and the Greek word for is “ephapax” (ἐφάπαξ).And Jude wrote in verse 3, “…I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” and the Greek word for this is “hapax” (ἅπαξ). “Once for all” is God’s marvelous wisdom to save many people of all generations.

Then in verse 11, “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.” Again, this description was the incompleteness of earthly priests’ duties, which is carried out standing and again and again. Then in verse 12, “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” This expresses the completion of Jesus’ duty and as a result he sat down at the right hand of God.”

Then in verse 13, “Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.” His completion meant his victory over his enemies. This victory of Christ is written two times in Hebrews, here 10:13 and in 1:13, “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” We should always claim this victor over the enemies of Christ, particularly the devil, the evil one, whose final destiny was uncompromisingly determined.

Then in verse 14, “because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” We are being made holy and then have been made perfect by him. Wow! Imperfect sinners are made holy and perfect. How? By his one sacrifice. For things imperfect will perish and be destroyed and gone. Only the perfect will remain forever. As we studied Jesus is our perfect high priest forever, and he has made us perfect by his one sacrifice. In book of Hebrews, the word, “perfect” is very significant. In 2:10, “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” And in 5:8-9, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” And in 7:28, “For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.” God made the author of our salvation perfect through suffering. And he was made perfect through his obedience. Our great high priest appointed by God’s oath has been made perfect forever. So he makes those who are being holy perfect, and has made them perfect forever. His sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice. So by one such sacrifice he has made perfect those who are being made holy. This is the power of one sacrifice. This is God’s full acceptance for us in Christ Jesus. So Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our thoughts on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” May we continue to be being made holy in this perfection before God.

After this amazing declaration the author reminds us of the new covenant. In verses 15 and 16, “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.’” The old covenant, that is, the law and animal sacrifice, never makes people perfect. But the new covenant, that is, Jesus and his sacrifice, does make people holy and perfect in God’s grace of forgiveness of sins and God’s laws written in our minds and hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Then in verse 18, “And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” This is an obvious statement. No more sacrifice; only one perfect sacrifice was done; enough. Christ accomplished everything necessary for the forgiveness of our sins through his one sacrifice.

We really thank and praise Jesus who appeared once for all to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ we have been holy, and by this one sacrifice he has made perfect those who are being made holy. May we live in this amazing grace of our Lord Christ Jesus, remembering his sacrifice and struggling against sin with the confession, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”

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