Agonizomai: Heb 9:6-10 - Christ - The True Sacrifice

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Heb 9:6-10 - Christ - The True Sacrifice

Heb 9:06-10 - Christ - The True Sacrifice

Heb 9:6-10 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

As an aside, here is another reason to believe that this sermon was written before AD70 - the language speaking in the present tense of ceremonies that ceased when Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus.

But the writer, having referenced some of the reverence-inspiring particulars of the sanctuary, limits his observations to only a few things. He is careful to show that there is a progressive exclusivity the nearer one comes to the inner sanctuary. No one but the priests may perform duties involving the sacred objects and ceremonies. None but the high priest could ever enter the holy of holies - and that only once a year, and not without making offering for his own sins. And even then, we read elsewhere, he had a rope tied to his ankle lest he might offend God in some unknown particular and die instantly, and need to be extracted from the inner sanctum.

Looking at the temple we see the progressive need for purity as the centre is approached. The court of the Gentiles lay outside of all, then of the women, then of (the men of) Israel. Then, the sanctuary where only Levites could engage in the work. Finally, the inner sanctum where only the high priest was allowed, once a year.

And we are reminded of the ubiquity and immanence of blood sacrifice which was needed even for unwitting sins. Ignorance was no excuse. So pure and undefiled and so consuming a fire of holiness is God that, unwitting or not, He cannot abide the presence of any sin whatsoever, and His anger at it must be assuaged by the shedding of blood - which means the giving of life. Sin requires death. Sin deserves death. God demands death upon all sin. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." "The wages of sin is death."

Under the old system, all the blood that was shed had no power to assuage God’s righteous anger against sin - nor could it salve the guilty conscience of the sinner. God was never bought off by the blood of bulls and goats. They were not substitute human beings. They had no connection with the fallen race of humanity. Their lives were but the lives of dumb beasts - no doubt valuable in their own way, but infinitesimal in comparison to the life of a man made in God’s image, and absolutely without any basis for comparison to the life of the Son of God.

While it is true that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins" - even in the old system that shed blood was only of avail if it was mixed with faith. The sacrifice offered by faith in the God of the promise availed in this sense - that it looked to God alone for mercy and grace, and it in some sense trusted that a true sacrifice, a true means of reconciliation lay in God’s hands and would be provided in due course. Until then, faith in the God Who would provide it was enough that he passed over former sins in anticipation of the day when the real sacrifice would be made.

If we follow this through to its conclusion and draw upon what has gone before, we see that if sacrifice was a man-initiated means of appeasing the wrath of God it was useless paganism. Salvation was, is and always will be a God-initiated act of grace and mercy to the utterly undeserving. The old sacrificial system still reflected the system of grace, but in a veiled way. It was veiled in law - righteous, just law that was the duty of every son of Israel to obey. Nevertheless, the remnant according to election always understood that justification was by faith in the God of the promise and not in the outward efforts of the flesh to gain acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation. These things always had to be entirely gifts of God.

Now these things were not fully open to the understanding of even true believers in Israel. But faith was the always the key, and any peace or forbearance on God’s part was always on account of His grace. All the outward stuff involving the ceremonial law was window dressing and advertisement heralding the coming attraction, which was the summing up of all things in the finished work of Jesus Christ.


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