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From Temporary To Permanent Sacrifice

Hebrews 9:25-26
Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (NIVUK)

The principle of sacrifice in the Bible starts with Genesis 3:21: where God killed an animal and skins it to provide clothing for the man and his wife, to cover their shame, after their sin in the Garden of Eden. Sacrifice was a feature of worship prior to the law being given to Moses. Abraham sacrificed: most poignantly being willing to offer his own son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14) but God commanded that a ram be killed instead of Isaac, setting the pattern for substitutionary atonement. Sacrifices were either commanded by God or occurred in spontaneous worship.

All of God's people knew that if they did not sacrifice to Him in the way He prescribed, then they would be cut off from God's people (Leviticus 17:8-9). But as their sinning continued, their sacrifices had to be made over and over again (Hebrews 10:1-3), and even then these could never fully atone for their guilt. For the priests it was quite an industry, as some of the meat from the sacrifice was given to them. In one sense, the tabernacle/temple officials had no interest in stopping sacrifices because they put food onto their tables. Likewise the selling of animals and birds for sacrifice became a commercial enterprise – which angered Jesus greatly (Matthew 21:12-13). What God had intended to open the door to holiness was perverted into self-serving corruption.

The death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ marked the fundamental change from temporary and recurrent sacrifices to one permanent and final sacrifice. Christ's sacrifice was one sacrifice for all sins for all time (Hebrews 10:12). It was effective for all those who had trusted in God's grace and mercy through the old covenant, and all who have/will trust(ed) Christ until He comes again. That sacrifice covers all the sins of all the people for all time (www.crosscheck.org.uk). Christ does not need to die again. As Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy." If that were not true, we would perish.

The significance of this single act of obedient self-giving is massive. It means that Christians are fully forgiven people. There is no need to cower away from God's holiness; we need only confess our own unholiness and trust in the efficacy of His poured-out blood. No amount of good works will atone for our misdeeds; only the blood of Jesus. For some it seems impossible that one death 2000 years ago could possibly reconcile us to God today: but it is true. Even though some religious people seem to want to complicate the grace of Christ, its simple meaning remains true (John 3:16). The message of free forgiveness is truly life changing, and we must tell it out so that others can be saved, and freed from the impossible demands of religion by good works or the unrelenting shame of unforgiven sin.

Gracious God. Thank You that no other sacrifice than Christ's will ever be needed to secure my eternal destiny. Forgive me when I have not treated this truth preciously, or when I have proudly considered I have not needed much saving; or that I can justify my place in Your presence by my own goodness. Please burn into my heart the preciousness of the blood of Jesus and Your great love in saving me, and help me to tell others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams