For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
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.’”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
If there were anything we could do to justify ourselves before God, anything we could do to establish ourselves in righteousness before Him, anything we could do to cleanse ourselves of all sin, then we would only need to do this thing one time, because having cleansed our conscience of all sin we would have no need to cleanse our conscience of sin again.
The fact that we are commanded to pray more than once, study God’s word more than once, love the brothers more than once, and believe the gospel more than once means none of these things can justify us before God. None of them can cleanse our conscience of sin.
There is only one sacrifice that will cleanse a person’s conscience of sin, and it was a sacrifice made one time never again be repeated. This one sacrifice was the sacrifice Jesus Christ made to God at the cross wherein He offered His death to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins. He did this once and once is all that was needed.
And once is all that was needed, because His death perfectly and forever redeemed His elect from the just and righteous punishment for their sins. They, who had earned a sentence of death for their sins, did deserve to die for those sins. And God was just and righteous to demand this death as punishment for their sins.
But because God had imputed His people’s sins to His sinless perfect Son, His Son’s death, offered willingly by the Son, did perfectly atone for those people’s sins. And because His death was perfect payment for His people’s sins, His death did once and forever redeem His elect. His death therefore, is enough to cleanse His elect’s conscience of sin forever.
And this is the good news which the gospel communicates to His elect. This is the information it relates to them. The good news that Christ, by the one sacrifice of His death for His elect’s sins, has perfectly and forever redeemed His elect from God’s righteous demand for their death which was due them for their sins.
Nevertheless, some people talk about this information as being something of a doorway into an experience. That is, they reduce righteousness, redemption and atonement to a relationship and little else.
Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they ask. Have you asked Jesus to come into your heart? Have you accepted His free offer? Do you understand He loves you and died for you?
In this experience is hidden the serpent’s promise of Godhood. What do I mean by that?
In the garden of Eden, the serpent had promised the first couple that they could establish themselves in righteousness by using information they could obtain from the tree which God had forbade them to eat from.
If you eat from that tree God has forbidden you to eat of, then you will receive information about what is good and about what is evil. You can then use this information to establish yourself in righteousness by doing the good and by not doing the evil.
In this country, right now on this very Sunday morning as a matter of fact, there are preachers feeding their congregations the same false gospel the serpent gave to Adam and his wife. These preachers are telling their congregations about a gospel that will give them information which they can then use to establish themselves in righteousness.
If you come to Jesus, then you will receive this information. If you will raise one hand high while every head is bowed and every closed . . . If you will walk down the aisle to this altar bench here and then say this prayer with me . . . If you will agree to be baptized, or take a catechism class, or volunteer in the church, or whatever it is the preacher says you need to do, if you do that then you too will receive the information you can use to justify yourself before God.
While this information varies from church to church and denomination to denomination, it is at its core always the same. That is, it involves something about a change in your behavior. Whether this means performing more social outreaches, taking more catechism classes, reading your Bible more, tithing more, praying more, or whatever else more, it always involves something about a change in your behavior.
And the reason for this is simple enough. After all, the serpent did promise our parents they could use the information they gleaned from their disobedience to establish themselves in righteousness by their performance.
And so if this false gospel is going to enable me to justify myself before God, then it is going to do it by giving me information which I can use for this purpose. To change my behavior for the purpose of justifying myself before God.
One of the worst of these false gospels is Lordship Salvation, because it not only tells people the five points are what they will need to receive the information, but it also attacks the very nature of faith itself.
And so what we are left with in all these false gospels is a redemption that we cannot be certain has redeemed. A death that we cannot be certain has atoned. A salvation that we cannot be certain has saved.
After all, how much behavior change is enough for me to know with certainty that the cross has redeemed me? I’m not sure. So I’d better keep checking in with my behavior to see if I finally have enough change in my behavior to assure me.
But look at what our text says here in Hebrews 10.
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
Romans 5:20 tells us that the law, that is, the law of Moses, came in to increase the trespass. That is, the law was given so that sin might abound! God gave His elect the law so they might sin more. The Bible says this.
This doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with the law. Far from it. The law was good and holy and just. It wasn’t the law that made people sin. Rather, it was their own disobedient nature that made them do this.
But consider what the apostle tells us in Romans 7:7. There he says, “Had it not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’”
Here he tells us that he would have never known what coveting was had the law not commanded him to not covet. And so the scripture is proved, “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). The law was not wrong to forbade him from coveting. Rather, it was God’s foreordained intent that men increase the trespass.
I would never have known what coveting was had the law not said, do not covet. But once it did say do not covet, my own disobedient nature rose up in me to resist the commandment and I found myself desiring to covet.
This is why the Scriptures tell us the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.
And so what began as a single commandment – in the day you eat of it you shall die – grew into more than six-hundred commandments. And what began as a single act of disobedience grew into millions upon millions of acts of disobedience. The law came in to increase the trespass.
But why would God intend this for His elect?
We have answered this before, but again by way of a quick reminder. God had preordained this increase in trespass as a means to drive His elect to seek for righteousness in the cross of Christ rather than in their performance.
Now centuries later here we are in the midst of an ocean of false gospels, and every one of them is telling us that we must look to our performance for proof that our faith, our redemption, our salvation, our new birth, our justification is real.
So what I am to understand then from listening to these false gospels is that God introduced the law for the purpose of increasing the trespass in order to drive His people to seek for righteousness in the cross of Christ, but after finding this righteousness in the cross of Christ, they are then to turn back to the law for the purpose of assuring themselves they have found righteousness in the cross of Christ?
Excuse me, but this makes no sense. If this were true, then wouldn’t the apostle have told us that he resolved to know nothing but the law? After all, the law would have been where he found his assurance, correct? And yet he tells us instead that he resolved to know nothing but Christ crucified? (1 Cor 2:2) No mention of the law.
The text tells us it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. If it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, and these are sacrifices which were repeated year after year, then it is also equally impossible for my works to take away sin, because they are works performed year after year.
If it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, then it is also impossible for prayer and Bible study and devotion and self control and even my love for God to take away sins. After all, each of these things are things I commanded to do more than once. Why on earth then would I look to those things which cannot take away sins for evidence that my sins have been taken away?! The idea is absurd.
There is only one sacrifice which has taken away sins, and this sacrifice is the sacrifice Christ made at the cross, wherein He offered His death at the cross to God as a sacrifice for His people’s sins. This is what I look to for evidence my sins have been taken away.
In his epistle to the Galatians, the apostle reminds his readers to look away from their own works and instead back to original object of their faith; the public portrayal of Jesus Christ crucified. And by portrayal, he means the story of, the news about, the eyewitness testimony of – Jesus Christ publically portrayed as crucified.
O foolish, Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It WAS before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
But that’s not the way it is now, is it? Rather than keeping your faith fixed squarely on Christ crucified, you have instead turned your attention to the works of the law.
But this Man, says our text, referring to Christ, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
By the one time, single sacrifice of His death, Christ has for once and all time put away all the sins of all His elect. I don’t mean in the sense that He has made them sinless. They are not sinless. I mean put away in the sense that He no longer counts their sin against them. They no longer owe Him a wage of death for their sins.
When you buy something on credit, the credit company owns an IOU against you. You owe them a debt of money. When you pay them that money you owe them, they “put away” the IOU.
The elect owed God a debt of death for their sins. The Bible says the wages of sin are death. The elect owed God a debt of death for their sins.
But because He has imputed their sins to Christ, and because Christ has paid the debt for those sins which they owed to God, God has put away their IOU. They no longer owe Him a debt of death, because Christ has paid that debt in full. And He did it justly, in a way which proves He is righteous to have put away His people’s sin.
And you notice this putting away and this redeeming, it is all past tense. It is all something which occurred to all the elect two-thousand years ago. There is no will redeem, might redeem, can redeem if you just ask Jesus into your heart or raise one hand high while every head is bowed and every eye closed.
No, it is an accomplished fact for every one of God’s elect. It is a has been redeemed, a has been atoned for, a has been put away.
It is for this reason, because He has put away their sins two-thousand years ago that He will now in the present time impute His elect righteous, that He will now in the present time regenerate them, that He will now in the present time make them willing to believe and will now in the present time justify them. And He does this all with the gospel.
And it is because He has taken away their sins that He will raise them up at the last day and give them immortality. And the reason why He took away their sins two-thousand years ago was because He had predestined them for salvation from before the foundation of the world.
This is the information the gospel communicates to us. This is the information we are to communicate to the world. And it is this information the world and especially false religion hates, because there is no information in it the world can use to justify themselves before God.
This self righteous drive to justify oneself is what lies behind all these false gospels. You guys know how God drew both Dan and myself out of a social gospel and then converted us. Prior to this, we used to go out into the city on Saturday mornings with the church we attended to do things like wash cars and give away free newspapers, free soda, free hot chocolate and so forth. Those things were supposed to show something to the people we served. They were to supposed to show them what Dan and I had at that time already firmly believed, and that was that God loved everyone and had died for everyone.
But there is no justice, no righteousness and no truth in a god who loves everyone and who died for everyone, but still manages to lose most of them. That kind of god is either too helpless to save or too evil to. Either way, I can no longer worship that kind of God. He is an unjust, unkind, merciless god who is either a victim of his own helplessness or a worker of his own sadism. He is an idol created in the image of man. And so he seems right to the self righteous man who is deceived by his own evil nature.
The good news of the gospel, which includes the news that God has chosen a people for His own from before the foundation of the world, and that His choice of them was in NO way conditioned upon anything those people might do at any point in their future, and that He died only for them and shall not lose one of them . . . well, this is news that gladly deprives me of any and all hope of one day justifying myself before God.
I am left speechless in the face of such information. The only recourse I have is to either agree or disagree this information is true, and even this decision has been predetermined for me by God from eternity. I, like all people, was born a slave to sin. It was my very nature. Oh yes, I chose, but I was helpless to but always choose sin, because sin was my nature from conception. Had not God opened the eyes of my heart to understand His gospel, had He not also compelled me to believe it, then I would have remained ignorant and deceived.
But as I said, the world hates this information precisely because it does leave them with nothing they can use to establish themselves in righteousness. The world has no patience for information which strips it of all promise and hope of remaking God in its own image. And so the gospel comes to it as the worst news the world has ever heard.
Which is why we find false gospels like Lordship Salvation springing up. And we find pastors and preachers and teachers instructing their congregations to look to their performance.
I quoted it to you guys before, but let me quote it again. Listen to what the Westminster Confession tells us about sanctification.
Chapter XIII, Section I.–They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
Two things about this from our text in Hebrews.
Hebrews 10:9-10— then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:14— For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
The Westminster would have us believe that “being sanctified” in verse 14 refers to progressive sanctification. In other words, that each justified elect is in the process of being sanctified.
But the context does not allow this. Verses 9 and 10 clearly state that the elect have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
In verses 10-14 sanctification is a legal state. Either we are holy before God or we are not holy before God; either we have access to God or do we do not have access to God.
This legal state of holiness and sanctification is not true though, for all the elect at the same time. In other words, the entire full number of the elect have not yet all been drawn and converted. We await for the full number to come in. Once a member of the elect is converted though, he remains converted for life.
There are other passages in the Bible which also teach this same kind of change of legal state in time. Romans 8:30 tells us that, “Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Does this mean every one of the elect, even those who have not been born have been called, justified and glorified? No, it does not.
A better way to read verse 14 then is like this: For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those whom He has called, is calling and will call.
Now, that’s the first thing I wanted to say. But here is the second thing.
Supposing the apostle Paul had traveled the world on his missionary trips telling the Gentiles that Christ had come to die and rise again in order to bring them into the process of sanctification by the law of Moses. That is, to circumcise them and to sanctify them by the law.
Do you think the Judaizers in in his day would still have had a problem with Paul had he done this? No. Of course not! After all, he would have been doing the very thing they were trying to do; which was bring the Gentiles under the law of Moses!
They would not have sought to undermine him at every turn, and they certainly would not have had later sought to kill him. He would have been doing them a favor, after all.
But this wasn’t what Paul was telling the Gentiles. He instead was telling them that the Jewish law, along with all its sacrifices and ordinances, had been dispensed with. Christ had satisfied its demands with His death and then had buried it forever. He had broken down the dividing wall that had once stood between Jew and Gentile. This dividing wall had been circumcision and the law of Moses. After all, the law of Moses and circumcision is what separated Jew from Gentile. He has nailed it to the cross. (Col 2:14, Eph 2:14-15)
Christ has demolished this wall and in its place He has erected one new man made up of both elect Jews and elect Gentiles.
Circumcision is no longer in the flesh, but rather now in the spirit. The land is no longer a physical stretch of dirt, but rather now a heavenly city. And a Jew is not one who is descended from Abraham by flesh, but rather one who shares in the same righteousness he had by faith. The old covenant has been put away. The new covenant is now here. And there is now nothing special about the nation or its land.
This is why the Judaizers hated him. This is why they sought to kill him. Why on earth then would God command His people to look to their obedience of this demolished law for sanctification? He would be an idiot God had He done this.
Christ had not only NOT come to restore Israel to its former glory, but He instead divested it of every last shred of glory it had once had. The land, the descendants, the law, it was all a foreshadow, a pattern, a temporary carnal copy of the eternal reality. He has now established in its place the better, eternal promises of the new covenant.
Justification is by faith, not by sight. Blessed is he who does not see and yet believes.