The Latter Epistles -Hebrews 10, Part 1

The law is only a shadow of the good things 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.  Otherwise, 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.  But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.  It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you 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, my God.’”
First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law.  Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”  He sets aside the first to establish the second.  And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
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.
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.

  • Hebrews 10:1-18

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Hebrews 10:1-6 ‘laying low the Levitical dispensation’: “I. The law had but a shadow, of good things to come.  These good things were to come, not clearly discovered.  The Jews than had but the shadow of the good things of Christ; we under the gospel have the substance. II. The law was not the very image of the good things to come, but was only a shadow.  The law was a very rough draught of the great design of divine grace, and therefore not to be so much doted on.  III. The legal sacrifices, being offered year by year, could never make the comers thereunto perfect, v. 1, 2.  Under the gospel, the atonement is perfect, and the sinner, once pardoned, is ever pardoned as to his state, and only needs to renew his repentance and faith.  IV. As the legal sacrifices did not of themselves take away sin, so it was impossible they should, v. 4.  V. There was a time fixed and foretold by the great God, and that time had now come, when these legal sacrifices would be no longer accepted by him nor useful to men.  This time of the repeal of the Levitical laws was foretold by David (Ps. xl. 6, 7).”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary

Hebrews 10:10 ‘We are made holy…’: “Man by himself cannot deal with his own guilt.  He must have help from the outside.  In order to forgive himself, he must have forgiveness from the one he has offended.  Yet man is unworthy to ask God for forgiveness.
“That, then, is the whole reason for the Cross.
”The Cross did what sacrificed lams could not do.  It erased our sins, not for a year, but for eternity.  The Cross did what man could not do.  It granted us the right to talk with, love, and even live with God.
“You can’t do that by yourself.  I don’t care how many worship services you attend or good deeds you do, your goodness is insufficient.  You can’t be good enough to deserve forgiveness.  No one bats a thousand.  No one bowls three hundred.  No one.  Not you, not me, not anyone.
“That’s why we need a savior.”

  • Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior

Hebrews 10:12 ‘sat down at the right hand of God’: “Under the old dispensation every priest stood.  But this man sat down, and the posture is instructive.  The typical priests stood because there was work to do; they must still present their sacrifices.  But our Lord sat down because there was no more sacrificial work to do.  Atonement is complete; he has finished his task.”

Hebrews 10:14 ‘forever sanctified’: “The glory of the text is that we are perfected forever – not for tomorrow and then allowed to fall from grace; not for the next twenty years and then turned out of the covenant.  The blood of Christ has been sprinkled on us; and, therefore, out standing before God is the standing of perfection.  And we are always perfect, always fit to come to the throne of God, whatever our doubts, whatever our sins.  I do not say this of our character.  We come before God in our station not in our character; and, therefore, we may come as perfect people at all times.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

My Thoughts

Consider this quote from C. S. Lewis:

“Think of yourself just as a seed, waiting patiently in the earth — waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time — up into the Real world, the Real waking. I suppose that all our present life, looked back on from there, will seem but a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cock-crow is coming. It is nearer now than when I began this letter.”

  • C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady

This chapter starts out with referring to the Old Testament sacrificial system as being a mere shadow of the sacrifice made by Jesus.  As a shadow, it was required annually, while Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, once for all.  When we compare our lives here on earth to the next life in Heaven for eternity with our Lord, it is like a shadow also.  Lewis calls it a “half-waking.”  Our real waking is yet to come.

I was always good with jigsaw puzzles.  These days they have them on the computer, but it is not the same.  When I was young, I had an aunt who lived in a northeast suburb of Memphis, TN, probably northern suburb today considering how the city has grown, and she had hundreds of old jigsaw puzzles.  Sure, I could and did run and play with the other kids, but I preferred the quiet chore of putting the puzzles together.

But I look back at my younger self and I wonder if I could have pieced those pieces together about how this was just the preparation for the next life.  And although C. S. Lewis wrote as if he had it all worked out, I wonder if he is looking back on what he had written from heaven, now that he has been there for more than 55 earth years, and he is laughing at how much he got wrong, how the “real waking” is so much better that he gave it a disservice with the flowery words that he used – flowery, but inadequate, because there are no earthly words.  And all of it unseen by us.

Yet, I only drew the analogy here to illustrate how our earthly worship is inadequate, even when we pour our heart and soul into it.  And the priests of the Old Testament times, the good ones, were so meticulous in following the rules to the letter.  Yet, the best we could offer is more like a firecracker compared to the nuclear detonation that is possible in the next life – not the destructive power, just the intensity of the “bang!”, the intensity of our worship.

And again, even in this first half of Hebrews 10, less than half, the author quotes from Psalm 40 and Jeremiah 31.  Why do I bring this up?  The book is written to the Hebrew churches.  With their background in the Old Testament law, the book of Hebrews is showing how the Old Testament is pointing forward toward Jesus.  Jesus is the culmination of those first 39 books of the Bible.  And Hebrews establishes Jesus as prophet, priest, king, and indeed, Messiah.  It is impossible to understand the richness and awesomeness of our Savior without clear understanding, for us in retrospect, the Old Testament.

And the quotes from Jeremiah 31 are key to these verses.

God will imprint Himself upon our hearts and minds. Throughout the course of my life, the concept of Jesus being in your heart seems to be cliché.  Mark Lowry talks about how Jesus is NOT sitting there in our hearts watching the corpuscles fly by, but God is saying that our every being, what makes us tick is where God wants to be.  And really, what are the two things in our body that must keep going?  Our heart and our brain (not necessarily the mind), so that all other body functions can happen.

The pastor who said on a panel discussion on a television program recently was right.  It costs nothing to become a Christian, for we provide nothing.  God does all the work.  But living the Christian life costs us everything.  It is in the quote from Jeremiah.  God puts His stamp upon both our heart and mind.  Without them, we cannot exist.  Without Him, we amount to nothing.

And the second Jeremiah 31 quote is equally powerful.  Isaiah may have talked about how our sins are like crimson, but God washes them away so that we become like snow.  And Jeremiah assures us that God remembers those sins no more.  As a different Max Lucado quote states, if God has forgiven them, why do we keep bringing them back up?  The atonement for our sins has been paid in full.  There is no need for further sacrifice.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. How much of your time is spent with a gnawing and vague sense of guilt: (a) All the time? (b) Most of the time?  (c) Some of the time?  (d) A fraction of the time?  Why is that?
”2. Do you live your life as if you were being made holy (v. 14)?  Why or why not? In what way is God calling you to practice greater holiness?
“3. If you were asked to memorize one verse from this section, which would you choose and why?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

Question 1 should have included another option of none of the time.  Having no guilt ever is not normal, but there are such people.  Maybe none that would be taking a Bible Study, but they exist.  Then again, I had a conversation in a Sunday school class where one person said that they never had to ask for forgiveness, because God already took care of that.  While their theology may be askew, their attitude was as if they did not even have to recognize that they had done something wrong.

As for question 3, my question to the Bible Study editor is why was not this question listed in all the reflection questions?

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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