We concluded last week by examining once again how we are better off under the new covenant than believers were under the old. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest could eat no portion of the animal sacrificed, unlike other days when some of the flesh of the animal was available to the priest. This signifies that while the sacrifices of the old covenant did offer a provisional means of atonement, the worshiper did not partake of all the nourishing benefits of the sacrificial animal.
However, this is not the case for those of us under the new covenant. For those of us in Christ feed at an altar from which only those who are in Christ can eat (Heb. 13:10). We know the Messiah more fully than any old covenant believer and thus can more fully enjoy and appreciate the nourishment that He gives us. Those who decide to remain outside the new covenant, whether they be followers of the old covenant or not, in no way receive these benefits.
Over the centuries, many Roman Catholics have said that this teaching applies to the Eucharist. The Mass then becomes regarded as a repetition of the sacrifice of Christ. In light of Hebrews’ emphasis on the finality of the work of Christ (10:12), this teaching is untenable and blasphemous since the finality of Jesus’ sacrifice is denied.
However, this is not to say that there is no place for sacrifice in the worship of the new covenant. While it is true that there is no longer any sacrifice for atonement, today’s passage makes it clear that sacrifices remain part of the worship of the New Testament church. Only now they are sacrifices of praise, offered spontaneously and joyfully through Christ and from a redeemed heart filled with the Spirit (13:15).
When we worship, we are encouraged to finish the race of faith. In our praise, we see the special activity of Christ as Mediator, pleading our case before the Father to ensure our perseverance. John Calvin comments: “God cannot be really invoked by us and his name glorified, except through Christ the mediator; for it is he alone who sanctifies our lips, which otherwise are unclean, to sing the praises of God; and it is he who opens a way for our prayers, who in short performs the office of a priest, presenting himself before God in our name.”
In light of the great sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, the appropriate response is one of worship and praise. As we glorify God, we are strengthened; and we testify to the reality that one day, all of creation will worship Him. As you go about your day today, take time to offer up sacrifices of praise to the Lord.