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), then He added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.
These two verses record for us the prophetic words of the Son of God concerning the cross. “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire. Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” The author of Hebrews then concludes from these words that the Son takes away the first so that He may establish the second.
Before we ask what this first and second are and why He took away the former away in order to establish the latter, we must first ask what the will of God is. After all, it was this will which Christ tells us He came to do.
So what is the will of God? Well, we know it was God’s will that Jesus Christ save His elect by dying for their sins. We know that this has always been God’s will. We are told this in Ephesians 1. We are told this in Romans 9. We are told this in Isaiah 53, in John chapters 6 and 10, and in many other places in the Bible.
We are told that it has always been God’s will as far back as from eternity, from before the foundation of the world, that Jesus Christ die for His elect in order to save them from the just and righteous punishment for their sins.
Whatever else this means for God’s elect, and it does mean many things for them, one thing it means is Jesus Christ was not an afterthought.
He was not a Plan B, in other words. God did not have a different plan in place before Jesus, but then somehow His will got frustrated and so He had to change His plans to go with His back-up plan of Jesus.
No. It has always been God’s plan that Christ die for His elect. It has always been His will that Christ save His elect from the just and righteous punishment of death for their sins.
In order to accomplish this though, Jesus Christ had to condescend to take upon Himself human flesh so that He could, in fact, die for His people. After all, He cannot die without a flesh and blood body. And so this too was always part of His plan that the Son take to Himself created human flesh along with a human nature and all without losing His Divine nature.
But before the Son of God could take to Himself a human body, He had to first raise up a people, a family and a nation on this earth from whom the Son of God could descend according to His flesh.
This is because the Son had to come from somewhere. We have talked about this before. The seed of the woman means, among other things, that He had to be born of a woman; which in turn means He had to be born of human female who came from a people, a nation, a tribe, a family.
And so what we find within God’s eternal permanent plan to send His Son to die for His elect is another separate, temporary plan to raise up a nation, to keep it separate from all other nations on the earth, and to preach through that nation to the world the promise of Christ’s death for God’s elect.
Now, most within the nation never understood this, and most still to this very day do not understand this. Most people think the nation itself was the eternal, permanent plan. They think the Messiah was for the nation. They did not understand that the nation existed for the Messiah.
Nevertheless, God’s plan for the nation was a temporary plan, while His plan for Jesus Christ to die for His elect was always His eternal and permanent plan.
As we mentioned a moment ago, one part of this temporary plan was that God keep this nation separate from all the other nations on the earth. And so to help accomplish this part of His temporary plan God gave to the nation a law. A law that consisted of 600 and some odd commandments. This law did not come alone. Rather, it came as part of a conditional covenant which God imposed upon the nation as a consequence of His plan to keep it separate from all other nations.
This covenant which God imposed upon the nation made a series of conditional, carnal promises. For instance, it promised some land to the nation on the condition that the nation obey the law. The two biggest problems with this covenant and its law though, was that neither the covenant nor its law could do anything about the nation’s sin, nor could anyone in the nation obey the law.
Consider, for example, what we spoke about last time. We discussed the implications of the first three verses of our text here in Hebrews.
From these three verses we learned that if there was 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 our consciousness of sin, then we would only need to do that thing one time, because having cleansed our consciousness of sin, we would have no need to cleanse our consciousness again.
The fact that the sacrifice of the blood of bulls and goats were to be repeated year after year proves that the sacrifice of the blood of bulls and goats could never cleanse the sinner’s consciousness of sin.
What these sacrifices did instead was remind the sinner of his sin. In this way they kept the sinner’s consciousness polluted with sin.
Every year, year after year, the old testament worshippers would gather to watch the high priest enter into the darkness behind the curtain of the holy of holies with blood on his hands. And what was the first thing they said to each other after they watched the high priest step back out from behind the curtain? I’ll see you again next year.
They knew the high priest could not once and for all time deal with their sin. They knew instead that the sacrifices only delayed their inevitable date with judgment for one more year.
Now, compare this with what we are told about Christ’s sacrifice in verses 11-13.
In these verses we are told that Christ, by the one time sacrifice of His body upon the cross, has perfectly and forever dealt with all the sins of all His elect. Last time you heard me say this happened two-thousand years ago. To be precise, I told you that Christ had redeemed all of His elect two-thousand years ago. This is true. But what exactly does redeem mean?
I bring this question up, because sometimes we say things like the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the grounds for justification. And this is true. I would not want to suggest to you that it’s not. But we should keep in mind the fact that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness also requires a grounds.
In other words, God must have a holy and just cause for imputing His sheep righteous. It must be a cause that preserves His holiness while also justifying His decision to justify a people who have disobeyed Him. After all, He has told us the soul who sins shall die. If He ignores this, then He is a liar and is therefore unjust and unholy.
But He has also promised that He will save His elect from their sins. If He is to remain holy and just, then He must also fulfill this promise.
And so what is He to do? It appears as if He is in a dilemma. On the one hand He cannot ignore the fact His people have sinned, and yet on the other hand He also cannot ignore the fact He has promised to save them from their sins. How is He to solve this dilemma?
Thanks be to Christ Jesus our Lord.
The cross of Christ solves the dilemma.
What is the grounds for God imputing His elect righteous? It is not simply the fact that He is sovereign, because although He is indeed sovereign yet He is also just and holy. He cannot impute His people righteous simply because He wants to. No, His wrath and indignation which justly stood against His people for their sin must be satisfied. Christ’s death did exactly this. The Bible refers to this satisfaction by the word, “propitiation.”
And so we find that the cross is God’s just cause for imputing His people righteous. When we say cross, we are using shorthand. We mean the death of Christ. God’s just cause for imputing His people righteous is the death of Christ and what that death got done for them.
And what the cross got done for them was their redemption. This is why and how God is just and right to impute His people righteous.
In fact, God must now impute His people righteous because of Christ’s death for them. The reason why He must do this is because the death of Christ really has redeemed them.
This means modern churchianity is even worse than it at first sounds, because the gospel preached in most modern churches today claims the cross was for everyone; and that although the cross was for everyone, nevertheless God is still not going to impute righteous most of those for whom Christ died.
God does not lie though. And Christ has not died for all.
But still, what does redemption mean?
There are three words in the Old Testament which are translated redeemed. And the reason why we are using the Old Testament here to define the word redeemed is because this is when the promise of redemption first appeared. Keep in mind as we look at these three words that all three are talking about the same thing, and so there will be some spillover between them.
The first word translated redeemed refers to the legal requirement of a substitution. We find it in places like Exodus 13.
And it shall be, when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and gives it to you, that you shall set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord’s. But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ that you shall say to him, ‘By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the Lord all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ It shall be as a sign on your hand and as frontlets between your eyes, for by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”
In this passage we find God demanding the sacrifice of all firstborn males from among the beasts as a token reminder of His punishment against Egypt for their stubbornness; a stubbornness that He Himself had ordained. But rather than demanding also a sacrifice of every firstborn Hebrew male human as well, God instead provided Himself with a substitute. A legal substitute. A sacrificial animal to stand in the place of each firstborn Hebrew male child and to on that child’s behalf undergo that child’s death. In so doing, the sacrifice also served to remind the people that it was not they who delivered themselves from Egypt, but rather the Lord.
And so the first thing we find out about the redemption which Christ accomplished for His people at the cross is that it is a legal substitution which God Himself provided for His people. Christ, who stood as legal substitute for His people, did on their behalf die the death each one of them had earned for their disobedience.
As a consequence of this, the proclamation and preaching of His substitutionary death for His people’s sins serves as reminder to them that it was not they who saved their lives; but rather, it was Christ who saved them by paying their debt.
This is one reason why it is so important that they receive this good news again and again. God is glorified each time they proclaim it or hear it being proclaimed.
The second word translated redeemed refers to the payment and deliverance of people, of property and of rights. We find it in places like Ruth 4:1-9
Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.” And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal. And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi.
From this account we find that the second thing about the redemption which Christ accomplished for His people at the cross is that it was a purchase of His elect.
By dying for His people Christ purchased His people from the just penalty for their sin. He purchased them from God’s righteous and just wrath.
He also purchased for them a place in God’s kingdom. He purchased the imputation of His righteousness for them. He purchased justification for them. He purchased faith for them.
He purchased their new birth, their resurrection, their eternal life, and even the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And He made this purchase for all of them two-thousand years ago by standing in as their substitute at the cross and there at the cross satisfying the sin debt they owed to God.
This is why I said God must impute them righteous. This is why He must give them the Holy Spirit. This is why He must bring them to faith, and why He must justify and at the last day raise them from the dead and grant them immortality to live with Him forever.
The final word translated redemption refers to the idea of a ransom. We find it in places like Exodus 21:28-30.
If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him.
The third thing we find out about the redemption which Christ accomplished for His people is that it provides for the payment of a ransom in exchange for a life from whom death is demanded. This ransom covers the cost of His people’s sin.
Using the example we just read here in Exodus 21. A farmer knows his bull is in the habit of goring people, but he doesn’t do anything about it. The bull gores another person, and this time to death. As punishment for his crime, the farmer is either to be put to death or else the relatives of the gored victim have the option of demanding the payment of a ransom from the farmer in exchange for the farmer’s life.
God’s people had disobeyed. They owed Him a sin debt. The wages of sin is death. The soul who sins shall die.
Christ paid His people’s debt in full by offering His own death to God as a ransom for His people’s debt. As a result, His death covers the debt they owed. God no longer demands payment of their death.
Now, let’s put all this together. What does it mean that Christ redeemed His people two-thousand years ago?
It means that Christ, as the legal substitute of His people, a substitute which God Himself has provided, has paid the sin debt His people owed to God by offering His death to God in exchange for theirs. As a consequence of this, He, by the sacrifice He made for them, has purchased for them righteousness and immortality, as well as faith and the Holy Spirit.
This is what He did for all of His elect two-thousand years ago, and this was always God’s will from eternity.
Well do the worshippers sing:
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
And to Him who sits upon the throne
Glory forever and ever
But what about those last words in our text here in Hebrews 10? He takes away the first that He may establish the second.
The first is that old covenant we spoke about earlier. That temporary covenant He made with the nation. It is the law, or what we might call the law of Moses. “Sacrifices and offerings You did not desire.”
These sacrifices and offerings were the sacrifices and offerings of the blood of bulls and goats. They were the sacrifices that could never cleanse a sinner’s consciousness of sin.
But if He has taken away the first that He may establish the second, what then is the second?
The second is the new covenant. It is the covenant of eternal promise which Christ ratified with His own blood. A covenant in which God promised the eternal blessing of resurrection and immortality for His people by putting away their sins and remembering their iniquities no more.
But why did Christ have to take away the old covenant in order to establish the new?
He had to take away the old, because the old opposed the new.
These two covenants opposed one another.
In one corner we have a covenant law which demands perfect obedience for righteousness. “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to do them.” We have covenant sacrifices and offerings that pollute the consciousness of the sinner by reminding the sinner of his sins.
In the other corner, we have a covenant with a sacrifice performed one time that has for all time fully and perfectly redeemed all the elect from the just punishment for their sins. As a result of this sacrifice, the elect are imputed righteous and the consciousness of the sinner is cleansed forever of his sin.
These are two covenants that are in direct competition with each other. They cannot both be in effect at the same time.
God cannot have sacrifices polluting the consciousness of His people, while at the same time placing before them a single sacrifice that has forever put away their sin. cleansed their consciousness of sin.
And so it was for this reason that the former had to be put away in order to establish the second.
The old covenant had to be demolished. It had to be removed.
Our text here in Hebrews tells us that, “sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them (which are offered according to the law) . . .”
The word law here refers to the law of Moses. And we know this, because the author has just been talking about the blood of bulls and goats. These were the sacrifices and offerings demanded by the law of Moses.
But we are not Antinomians. Just because the law of Moses has been put away does not mean there is no law at all now in effect.
We are instructed in Romans 12 to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice which is our spiritual worship.
I am sure most, if not all of you guys you have met an Antinomian once or twice. These are the folks who talk about Christians not being under the guide of any written law. They talk instead about the Spirit being their guide, operating from within them. They sound like Charismatics in this respect, Charismatics talk about not needing to read and study the written word, for they can hear the Spirit speak to them from the inside.
No. This is nonsense. Christians are indeed to conduct themselves in their behavior according to a written law. Scripture calls this written law, Christ’s law.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 that “to those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God, but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.”
Here he is saying that to those Jews who followed the law of Moses he became as one who followed the law of Moses, though he was not himself under the law of Moses. The reason he did this was so that he might win some of those Jews. No good in offending people right off the bat before you’ve even had the opportunity to preach the gospel to them, right?
On the other hand, to Gentiles who do not prescribe to any law at all, he became as one who is outside the law, though not being himself outside God’s law, but in matter of fact being under Christ’s law. And the reason he did this, was so that he might win some Gentiles too.
And so we find explicitly stated here that he counted himself under Christ’s law. Christ’s law comes to us today in the written testimony of the apostles. In other words, His commandments are recorded for us in the pages of the New Testament.
So yes, the new covenant does have a law. Christ’s law. His commandments. And Christians are to obey those commandments. But NOT in the same way and for the same reason the people in the old testament were to obey the law of Moses.
The people in the old testament were commanded to pursue righteousness by the law. This includes the Old Testament saints. Yes, those saints were saved by the cross of Christ, and we will talk about that in just a moment, but they were also the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob living at a time in which God had imposed a ministry of death upon the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Christians are not under this ministry of death. We do NOT pursue righteousness by the law.
Instead, Christians rest with faith in Christ’s righteousness which He accomplished for His elect. And from this legal state of righteousness in which they rest, being assured of their righteousness, they pursue obedience from a position of thanksgiving and gratitude for what Christ has accomplished for them.
We find the various commandments of Christ’s law sprinkled throughout the New Testament. They usually appear near the end of the epistles in those sections we sometimes call “practical instruction”.
These practical instructions are Christ’s commandments to His people. Put off anger, put off malice. Have nothing to do with deeds of darkness. These are not suggestions. They are Christ’s commandments to us.
Have this same attitude in you that was in Christ Jesus. You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those persecute you. He who does not work does not eat. Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you. Husbands love your wives, wives love your husbands. A new commandment I leave you, love one another even as I have loved you. These are just some examples of His commandments to Christians.
Now, the mistake I used to make was like this. I used to say it is still a sin for a Christian to murder, and since the ten commandments say you shall not murder, therefore, Christians must still be under the ten commandments.
I concluded from this that certain parts of God’s law never change. And that since we find certain commandments repeated, like for instance, love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, therefore some parts of the old laws must still apply to Christians today.
But this is wrong. It is a wrong way to think and it is a wrong thing to say.
Number one, of course God’s law changes. Of course it does. Under the covenant with Moses it was a sin to not keep the Sabbath. Under the covenant with Abraham it was a sin to not circumcise all the males in your household. Under the covenant with Noah it was a sin to eat blood. Say good-bye to blood sausage and a nice, juicy, medium-rare steak, right?
Wrong. We are not under that covenant.
Hebrews 7:12 tells us that where there is a change in the priesthood there is necessarily a change in the law as well. How then can anyone say God’s law never changes? Of course it changes.
Someone asks, but isn’t it a sin for a Christian to murder? Indeed it is. But NOT because the ten commandments say it is.
We are NOT under the old covenant. We are under the New Covenant. We do not need any commandment from the old covenant to tell us what sin is, because we have Christ’s commandments in the new covenant to tell us what sin is.
It is a sin for a Christian to murder, because Christ told us it is.
Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that is was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.’”
Not only is it a sin for a Christian to murder, but it is a sin for a Christian to even insult his brother in anger!
Christ’s law goes far beyond what the law of Moses commanded, because Christ’s law goes right to the heart of the issue, the nature of sin and the sinner himself.
You have not committed adultery? Good for you. But did you ever look at a woman with lust in your heart?
You have not committed murder? Good for you. But did you ever look at your brother with anger in your heart?
Nowhere do any of those old covenants in the Old Testament give us the right to splice out certain parts of their law and then leave the rest. Nowhere does the law of Moses say we can cut and paste the covenant’s laws without taking all of them.
The Spirit warns us in Galatians 3. “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by ALL that is written in the book of the law to do them.”
He warns us again just two chapters later in Galatians 5 that anyone who accepts even one of these old commandments is obligated to obey them all.
We don’t get to cut and splice the old covenants and their law just because some commandments sound similar. God has not given us that option.
Any man who wants to abide by even one of the ten commandments, or even one of the other 600 odd other commandments, is automatically obliged to obey every one of the laws found in that covenant. And this includes the commandment to sacrifice the blood of bulls and goats.
But hasn’t God always commanded His creation to honor and worship Him? My answer is so what?
Just because Adam dishonored God by disobeying His commandment to refrain from eating from the tree does not mean we are now today under the covenant with Adam.
We do not look to Genesis 2 for our marching orders. We have Christ to tell us, “Those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.”
This was the problem with the Galatian heretics. This was the problem they were ignoring. They were trying to cut and paste the law of Moses in order to bring into the New Covenant just one commandment, just one little tiny commandment, the commandment to circumcise your children.
But the Spirit would have none of it. And He did not call this a denominational difference or a small issue or even a minor misunderstanding. No, He called it another gospel that is not a gospel at all. He calls it a false gospel.
Why did God take no pleasure in the death of animals? Why did He not desire sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings for sin? Was it just because they were animals?
No, it was because those sacrifices could never atone for sin. They could not put away sin. They did the very opposite instead. They reminded the people of their sin.
The law of Moses said, do this and you shall live. The “this” were the 630 odd commandments contained in the law of Moses.
The problem was that nobody could ever do “this”, because nobody could ever perfectly obey these commandments beginning from the first moment of their conception.
Besides this, the people were already guilty of Adam’s disobedience before they even got started at having a try at obeying those other 630 odd commandments.
The sacrifices were offered in accordance with a law nobody could obey. Which means everyone who pursued righteousness in accordance with the law was found unrighteous by that very same law.
Romans 9 tells us this.
30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith;31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,33 as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
This is why I say again, no one in the Old Testament was saved by the law of Moses. The elect who lived during the days of the Old Testament were saved not by the law, but rather by the cross of Christ, which at that time was still a promise a long way off. Yes, if you had the eyes to see back then in the Old Testament, then you saw the sacrifices pointing to that cross, but it was the cross they pointed to.
That entire covenant and every single one of its commandments had to be scrapped and then replaced with a new covenant. Each covenant comes with its own set of law and promises. The promises of the new covenant are superior to all the promises of the old.
Am I suggesting that under the New Covenant, Christians do find righteousness by a pursuit of Christ’s law? Absolutely not. Christ’s law demands no less a perfect obedience than the old law did. And there are none of us getting better about obeying Christ’s law than there were people getting better about obeying the law of Moses.
No, we do not pursue righteousness by the law. We do not obey Christ’s commandments in order to assure ourselves of righteousness. Nor are we motivated to obey out of fear of punishment and the hope that we can one day establish ourselves righteous.
In other words, if the old covenant said do this and live, then the new covenant says to the justified elect, because you live, therefore do this. And when we fail to do this perfectly, as we must inevitably do, we know that disobedience has already been put away.
Under the new covenant, God’s people are motivated to obey Christ’s commandments from gratitude and thanksgiving. Gratitude for what Christ has accomplished for them at the cross. Thanksgiving to Him that He has made them righteous and has forever secured for them resurrection, immortality and eternal life. If we are not assured of our salvation in Christ before we set out to try to obey Christ’s commandments, then our efforts to obey are an offense to God.
That said, we don’t need to return to a covenant which says thou shall not steal in order to know stealing is a sin. We already have a commandment in the new covenant that tells us stealing is a sin. He who steals must steal no longer, but rather let him labor honestly.
We are in the new covenant. We are in the new age. And on the final day of this new age a trumpet will sound and the dead in Christ will rise. We must not be in the business of marking this new age with a return to the old.