The Sacrifices of the Law

“The law … can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near” (Heb. 10:1).

- Hebrews 10:1–2

Two thousand years ago, the author of the letter to the Hebrews found himself responsible for the spiritual care of a congregation that was suffering persecution for confessing the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, many of them wanted to abandon their confession in order to return to the old covenant and escape suffering.

It is hard to believe that anyone could even think about abandoning Christ, especially considering His superiority both to angels and to Moses (Heb. 1:1–3:6). Nevertheless, this audience was tempted to turn away. They were in the same position as that first generation of Israel who left Egypt and, because of their lack of saving faith, were barred from the Promised Land (3:7–4:13).

Seeing the possibility of apostasy, the author of Hebrews wrote his letter to prevent it from happening. He did not want his audience to abandon the perfect High Priest from the order of Melchizedek (4:14–7:28). He did not believe that salvation could be lost. However, he did know that while the elect are secure in their redemption, they are still responsible to demonstrate the reality of their regeneration through faith and obedience. He knew that the life of faith is a journey and that perseverance is a process. And he knew that the Holy Spirit would use the warnings in his epistle to make those with true faith demonstrate its reality by holding onto Christ.

Persecution, and the fact that the new heavens and new earth had not yet come, made it hard for the original audience to believe that they were living in the days of the new covenant. But while the new covenant has not yet been fully consummated, it is already here (8:1–13), and will be brought to completion because of the effectual blood of Jesus Christ (9:1–28).

This month we will study Hebrews 10, which continues the emphasis on the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Today’s passage again reminds us that a return to the old covenant would be foolish because it would be a return to the shadowy days of repeated sacrifices (10:1). Their repetition demonstrates that they could not cleanse the worshiper because if they could, they would not have needed to be done over and over (v. 2). This, as we shall see in the coming days, is most unlike the final and effectual sacrifice of Christ.

Coram Deo

The Law is the shadow, but Christ is the reality. He is the fulfillment of all that came before Him. He made real atonement for our sin. He makes real intercession for our salvation. He has done that which we cannot do for ourselves. Spend some time worshiping Christ and thanking Him for bringing God’s promises to reality.

Passages for Further Study

Lev. 16
Isa. 6:5
Eph. 2:1–10
Col. 2:16–17
Heb. 10:14

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.