This passage continues the contrast that the author has been making between the new covenant in Christ and the old covenant. We have already seen that the covenant itself is superior, as is the priestly ministry of Christ. We now turn to the sacrifices offered in each covenant, and once again we will see that what we have in Christ is better by far.
The first and most obvious difference is that the sacrifices that were made in the old covenant had to be repeated on a regular basis. Certain sacrifices were made every year. Others made every day. The very fact that they needed to be repeated shows the ineffectiveness of these sacrifices. If they were truly able to cleanse an individual from sin, then there would be no need for further sacrifices to be made in the future. In fact, the author tells us, this was part of the purpose of these sacrifices; a continual reminder of the powerlessness of the blood of animals to truly take away sins.
On the other hand, the sacrifice of Jesus was offered once and for all. There is no need for him to repeat the sacrifice, nor is there any need for any others to add to what he has done. Through his perfect sacrifice, sins are truly forgiven, and he has perfected those who are being sanctified.
Some Key Points:
- The sacrifices of the Old Testament were never able to take away sins. They were repeated regularly as a witness to their own ineffectiveness.
- The sacrifice of Christ was effective. It means our sins are truly forgiven.
- We should not look elsewhere, to other sacrifices or religious deeds to make things right with God. We should keep our trust in the sacrifice of the cross.
- The Completeness of Salvation – We can have confidence in the completeness of our salvation. The sacrifice of Christ is truly effective in taking away our sins, and so there is no need to attempt to add to it in any way.
- A Word of Forgiveness – There will be people in our congregation struggling with feelings of guilt around particular sins. It would be good to offer a word of assurance that full forgiveness is found in Christ and those sins are taken away in him.
- Confidence to Press On – The context of Hebrews is a group of Christians who are under pressure for their faith, and the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice is brought up as an encouragement to keep going in the faith. Realising what a great gift we have in the gospel is something that can spur us on to do so.