Some in the original audience of the epistle to the Hebrews thought that they would have something to gain if they abandoned their confession and returned to the old covenant ordinances. Now it is true that they would have been more safe physically, but this safety would have come at the expense of their spiritual well-being. For they would have been abandoning the superior priesthood of Melchizedek in favor of the Aaronic priesthood that could not offer real atonement for sin (Heb. 9:1–10:4).
The animal sacrifices instituted under the old covenant showed the people that blood was necessary to give atonement for sin. However, it was not the blood of animals that would provide what the people needed. For the people needed someone who, by doing the will of God perfectly, could alone offer the sacrifice necessary to bring about our atonement (10:5–7).
The Jewish context in which the author wrote made it quite revolutionary for him to state that the time of animal sacrifices had come to an end. After all, animal sacrifices were prescribed by the Word of God itself and how can we change the requirements of God?
When we look at today’s passage, however, we see that it was the very Word of God that predicted the end of these sacrifices. Verse 8 reminds us that God did not desire the sacrifices performed according to the Law. This does not mean that sacrifices were not necessary, just that from an ultimate perspective, the sacrifices according to the Law were not the sacrifices God really desired.
We know this to be the case from verse 9 where it is said that Christ abolished the animal sacrifices in order to establish God’s will. The commentators tell us that in this verse, God’s will refers to Christ’s sacrifice of Himself as the one efficacious sacrifice for sins. Ultimately, the will of God was that a sacrifice be performed — the perfect sacrifice of His only Son.
As a result of Christ’s obedience to God’s will by the sacrifice of Himself, we have been sanctified (v. 10). God already sees us as holy if we are in Christ, that is, we are positionally holy in His eyes. Though we must work out this holiness by obeying God’s commands, we are set apart even now and will one day manifest this holiness perfectly.
Christ has done all that is necessary to make us holy, and, positionally, those in Christ are holy. But our positional holiness is not yet a reality in our day to day experience. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help motivate you to manifest the holiness we enjoy in Christ, and seek to be obedient to the commands given to us in God’s Word.