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Jul 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 26, 2020


For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Hebrews 10:1

Intro: The writer of Hebrews has been commenting on the “new covenant”

The first half of chapter ten is a continuation and conclusion of this theme
– he explains how God writes his will into our hearts and minds
• in order to clarify the way Jesus works on the inside of our lives,
• our writer has enumerated contrasts between the old and new covenants
◦ more contrasts appear here, all the way to verse 18
– again, he refers to the old as having only a shadowy existence
• I’m fascinated by this language that he uses:
◦ copy, shadow, pattern, symbol, earthly (versus heavenly)
◦ what seems real to us is a mere silhouette of reality
• a shadow entails a light source – a physical object – and a surface
◦ the physical object prevents light from reaching a specific area of the surface (of the ground, floor, wall, or whatever the surface may be)
◦ a shadow is a darkness that indicates the presence of something else

The shadow of Jesus falls across the surface of the Old Testament
. . . let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (Col. 2:17)
– New Testament writers discerned the outline of Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures
– even if a shadow is the absence of light, a shadow is not “nothing”
• a shadow is informative–it tells us there is a light and an object
◦ sometimes we notice the light – like the full moon on a clear night
◦ sometimes we notice the object, and may recognize what it is by its shadow
• shadows cannot sustain our lives – they have no substance
◦ but they point to everything that can support life
◦ the shadow of religion points us to Jesus

I’m going to ask a delicate but sincere question:
– Are we living in the shadows?
• religion is a shadow that some people never get beyond
• take worship, for example; it requires “forms” of expression
– the forms that embody worship include ritual, offering, prayer, song, etc.
• it’s a serious error to mistake the form of worship for worship itself
◦ to mistake the elements for the essentials
. . . this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me . . .
(Isa. 29:13)
◦ “we must distinguish praying from saying prayers,” David Steindl-Rast
• the essence of worship is to draw near (v. 1)
◦ the shadow is saying prayers
◦ the reality is our spirit drawing near to God’s Spirit
. . . the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23-24 — not)

Are we living in the shadows?
– Israel’s worship was effective in changing their status with God
• from defiled to clean, from sinful to forgiven, from unholy to holy
• but their worship could not change them!
it could never . . . make perfect — that is, never bring them to completion

How does the writer know this?
Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:2-4

Verse 2 is a question
– if the sacrifice worked, why did they have to offer it again and again?
• we’ve seen that worship according to law did not affect their consciousness
cannot perfect the consciousness of the worshiper (Heb. 9:9)
could not, like Jesus’ sacrifice, purify our consciousness (9:14)
• in fact, in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins
◦ if you memorize Bible verses, memorize this one:
For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in [God’s] sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Ro. 3:20)
◦ this tells us what the law cannot do and what it can do

Imagine a woman who is told she is in critical need of a specific surgery on her heart if she is to survive. The surgery will be painful and the period of rehab will be long and unpleasant. Once she accepts that she must undergo this procedure, the doctor tells her that she must have this same surgery every year. A natural question would be, “Isn’t there one surgery that could fix me for life?” Besides that, your annual surgeries would be an ongoing reminder of your condition and compromised health.
Or what about a medicine that relieved symptoms, but did not heal an infection, so that symptoms keep coming back? You would never have the confidence of your health being one hundred percent.
That was the nature of the sacrificial ritual. On the Day of Atonement Israel’s sins were covered for the past year and the sanctuary was purified for the next year, but then the whole ritual would have to be repeated. Their sins would never be fully resolved once and for all.

As Luke T. Johnson says, “This section concludes with a flat denial,” that is, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (v. 4)

I grew up in a religious subculture that was fixated on sin
– preachers and teachers talked more about sin than anything else
• it was constantly thrown in our faces
• our reminder of sins, was not every year, but every Sunday night!
◦ the sermons were designed to make us feel miserable with guilt
◦ and we’d have to make our way back to “altar: to get saved again
Are we sill living in religion’s shadows?

The writer introduces another quotation from scripture
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'”

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. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the blood of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:5-10

But notice, the writer does not say the quote comes from scripture, but from Jesus
when Christ came into the world–that is, from birth this was his destiny
• the New Testament does not take aim at Old Testament religion
◦ the writers considered themselves to belong to the same faith
◦ only, in Jesus they had reached a new experience of God
• the critique of Israel’s sacrificial worship was already in the Old Testament
Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams
(1 Sam. 15:22)
For I desire [mercy] and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings
(Hos. 6:6)
– God did not send Jesus to perpetuate more of the same
• he gave him something different from repetitive sacrifices – a body
◦ if you read Psalm 40:6, you will see that it does not say
a body you have prepared for me
my ear you have opened
◦ a Hebrew idiom has been, in the Setuagint version of the Old Testament, translated into a Greek literalism
I have come to do your will, O God
◦ this is so much the life of Jesus in the Gospel of John
I can do nothing on my own . . . because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me (Jn. 5:30)
I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. . . . He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him (Jn. 8:28-29)
My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work (Jn. 4:32-34)

God prepared a body for Jesus, so Jesus could give it back to him

In verses 8-10, the writer interprets the quotation
– in these verses he discerns a two-stage development
• stage one: God’s rejection of sacrificial worship according to the law
• stage two: Jesus announces what he has come to do
– on the basis of this development, the writer concludes,
He does away with the first in order to establish the second
• that is – he does away with the old sacrificial system
◦ and he establishes the fulfillment of God’s will in the person of Jesus
• then in verse 10 the writer explains:
◦ in doing God’s will, and offering his body, Jesus Christ has made us holy
◦ and the offering of this sacrifice was effective, so he only had to offer it once for all time

The writer reiterates the point he has made
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Hebrews 10:11-14

The priest stands, because he always has more work to do
– Jesus sits, because his one single sacrifice was for all time
• and where he sits is in ultimate greatness and majesty

Kevin McCruden, in a well-researched essay entitled “The Concept of Perfection In the Epistle to the Hebrews,” examined how the word perfect (perfected, perfection) is used in the Book of Hebrews. He brought out dimensions of Jesus’ perfection, being perfectly human, our perfect high priest, and so on. Then he moves on to talk about the perfecting of Jesus’ followers, and how it is ultimately future (Heb. 12:23). But he also observes, “As experienced in the lives of the faithful . . . perfection also has a present dimension in Hebrews, since those who participate in Christ are pictured as already enjoying access to God in their earthly existence.” He adds, “In keeping with its strongly sacrificial assessment of the death of Jesus, Hebrews tends to relate the perfection of the faithful to the idea of sanctification.”
That is the exact connection that we see in verse 14, where Jesus has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Notice how the conditions of our perfection (in salvation) are past tense, where as the process of sanctification (being made holy) is ongoing–we are being sanctified.

The writer returns to the Jeremiah quotation
(only here, it is now the Spirit who is speaking)
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Hebrews 10:15-18

This is a closer examination of new covenant, focusing on one clause
– the writer did not comment on the lines quoted here in verse 17
• in verse 3, the repeated sacrifices for sin under the old system were
a reminder of sins
◦ but now all sins can be forgotten, because God will
remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more
• and where these is forgiveness of these,
there is no longer and offering for sin (v. 18)

Conclusion: When hippies came to faith during the Jesus Movement

They brought their counter-culture values with them
– including peace, love, and a dislike for “the establishment”
• so it was not surprising that when they were asked,
“What religion are you?”
they answered,
“I don’t have a religion, I have a relationship!”

– “religion” refers to the externals of our relationship — the shadows
• you cannot create a relationship out of religion,
• you can only express the relationship you have through it
◦ otherwise, prayers, offerings, and sacrifices of praise are not acceptable
– “acceptance,” in fact, is a primary goal of worship
• so from the beginning, and all through scripture, acceptance is crucial
(see Gen. 4:7; Lev. 1:3; 22:19; Psa. 20:3; Isa. 56:7; Jer. 6:10; Rom. 12:2; Php. 4:18; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pe. 2:5)
• if the sacrifice is accepted by God, so is the worshiper who offers it
◦ the offering, even if otherwise perfect, is not better than the one who brings it
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him (Pr. 15:8)

Have I been living in the shadows?
Or am I walking in light as he is in the light?
Jesus leads – we follow;
that is how he does his work in us.
We miss a step, and he takes us back to try again.
We slow down,
and he picks up the pace.
Jesus came to do God’s will,
and in him we learn to do God’s will.
We learn to surrender to God’s will
until it becomes our own.
Describing her work in Calcutta, Mother Teresa said, “From the first [day] to this day—this my new vocation has been one prolonged ‘Yes’ to God . . . .”

It is not so much that we have to go and find God’s will;
God’s will finds us us–every day.
It finds us,
and we surrender to it when it comes.
And then we discover
God’s will has always been to love us
as his cherished children.
And through us,
to love the world.

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