Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sin and Sacrifice: Part 3

To conclude the series on sacrifice (see Part 1 and Part 2), we turn our eyes to Christ to find the perfect fulfillment of God's sacrificial system. The reason God gave us sacrifice was to show mercy and forgiveness (Genesis 3:21, Hebrews 9:22) and draw us back into a relationship with him (Exodus 20:22-26). But we took God's gift and corrupted it. Sadly, man turned sacrifice into his own image instead of recognizing the justice and mercy of God and worshiping him for his grace.

The two purposes previously given for sacrifice are incomplete (and will probably remain so), for animal sacrifice was not the totality of God's plan. Sacrifice was to accomplish two other goals, and Hebrews 10 explains those purposes:
  • God was laying the foundation and pointing to a future, greater fulfillment of his plan
  • God created the system through which his Son would offer salvation to the world
A Shadow of the Good Things to Come
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. 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 10:1-4 ESV)
The author tells us that it is not the blood itself that takes away sins, even though a chapter before he tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. God wanted people, as they sacrificed animals year after year, to ask what the point of it was and to see that there is something more, something better coming. For a Hebrew, this would be the object of their faith: trust in something greater--complete trust in God and his plan for redemption. Even though they didn't know Jesus Christ, they put their trust in him when they had faith in the God's total plan through history. For those with the benefit of history and the New Testament, we know that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice and the final installment of God's plan (Hebrews 10:14).

Behold, I Have Come to Do Your Will

Sense the divine irony of this whole setup. The Son of God is crucified under the system that Father designed to save his creation. In sending his Son to the cross, Jesus had to perform a supreme act of obedience to the Father, and our failure to obedience ushered in this sacrificial system. 

The problem we explored yesterday showed that people approached sacrifice backwards. They used it as license for sin, trusting in the ritual instead of God. God wants obedience instead of sacrifice. We see that Jesus is the fulfillment of obedience, especially obedience by sacrifice (Phil 2:8):
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.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7 ESV)
So in Christ we have the sacrifice, and our obedience is found in him. As we trust in God's Son as our Savior, the Sacrificial Lamb, he becomes our obedience before God. In him we have sacrifice and obedience; he fulfills all things (Hebrews 10:17-18)--his sacrifice was effective. So now the blood takes away sins. It's the blood of the only begotten Son.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

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