The Fourteenth in a Series of Sermons on the Epistle to the Hebrews
There is a very good reason why we talk a lot about the distinction between the law and the gospel, and the fact Christ’s death upon the cross can save even the guiltiest of sinners, and that Christ’s righteousness (his obedience) is the ground of our justification before God. The reason why we talk about these things so often is that these things are taught throughout the pages of Scripture, and they are repeatedly emphasized in the Book of Hebrews. In this epistle we read that it is because of Jesus’ obedience to the will of God in offering himself as the once and for all, final and perfect sacrifice for sin, that we have the forgiveness of our sins, a clean conscience before God, that we are being sanctified, and that we already have an eternal redemption. And it is because Jesus has done all of this for us as our great high priest, that we live in the new covenant era where there are no more sacrifices for sin, no priests to make them, and no holy places in which God dwells in the midst of his people, protecting us from his wrath and from his glory.
As we continue with our series on the Book of Hebrews, we now take up the author’s discussion of Christ’s sacrifice for sin in chapter 10–concentrating (as we did last time) on the “once for all” and the “how much more” descriptions of our Lord’s redemptive work on behalf of sinners. In this section of Hebrews we find some of the most important teaching in the entire New Testament about the purpose and the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ. This is why it is wise that we take our time as we work through this section of Hebrews, and why we should digest this material carefully and prayerfully.
In order to understand why the unknown author of Hebrews emphasizes the particular theological points that he does, we need to keep in mind that he is writing to an unnamed church (likely a house church in Rome or Alexandria) which is made up of recent converts from Judaism to Christianity. Apparently, a number of the people who originally founded this church had renounced Jesus Christ and returned to that religion in which they had been raised. The author of Hebrews composes this epistle to demonstrate the absolute superiority of Jesus Christ to all things, effectively removing any reason or justification to return to Judaism. The result is this letter in which we learn a great deal about the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ, the nature of his sacrifice upon the cross, as well as how our Lord’s priesthood gives us a clean conscience before God, confidence to approach God in prayer, and a solid hope that our eternal priest will return to deliver his people at the end of the age.
As we have seen throughout our study of Hebrews so far, the author has been relentless in building his case from the Greek text of the Old Testament (the LXX) that Jesus is the great high priest whose redemptive work fulfills every Old Testament expectation that God would send a Messiah who would save his people from their sins. We all know someone who if one nail is required uses three, if a dab of glue is needed they use half the tube. They just want to make sure . . .
We see this tendency “to make sure” in the way in which the author of Hebrews builds his case for the superiority of Jesus Christ to Moses, to the priests of Israel, and even to angels. We have observed that the author has used one line of biblical argumentation after another to prove that Jesus is superior to the inferior (the types and shadows of the Old Testament), that Jesus ushered in the new covenant superseding the old covenant, and that in Jesus–through the power of the Holy Spirit–God’s redemptive work is not merely external to us (the sacrificial blood of animals and the law being given on stone tablets), but is now internal, removing from us the guilt of sin in such a definitive way that our consciences are now clean before the Holy God.
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