Good morning church! Glad you all made it here this morning. We are thankful that we have power and a roof over our heads to be able to gather and worship our God together. I hope many of you read ahead this week. There is some repetition from where we have been, so reading ahead helps us travel through those areas a little faster, so we can get further. Remember, I’ve pointed out that the argument in the book of Hebrews does not follow the typical western argument that we are used to. Where a proposed thesis may be stated, a case is build through linear argument, and it eventually climaxes into a conclusion.
The Book of Hebrews,... one Sunday I related it to a spinning ride on the playground, and that went bad fast, so maybe more like a wheel with spokes. The argument throughout the book is Jesus is Better. Better than the prophets, better than the law, better than the angels, a better high priest, Jesus is a better sacrifice. So the point that Jesus is better is the center of the wheel, and then each of these things go out from that center and after a comparison, return with our conclusion, yes, it is true, Jesus is in fact better than every thing and everyone, and there is no other avenue to forgiveness and Heaven.
So the writer continues on with that argument, again as we’ve seen in chapters past with some overlap from where we left off. So, let’s pray and we will begin.
Father in Heaven, You are Holy, Righteous, All Knowing, All Loving…You are Just, yet You are gracious and full of mercy...we do thank you Lord…Amen.
1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
Now our author continues on with his theological argument, and eventually gets to application. But getting right to to the point here, he makes some awfully strong statements to these people that grew up in Judaism and a sacrificial system. And right off the bat he says these animal sacrifices under the old covenant go on and on and on, year after year after year. The reason that they continue on and on and on, is that they fail to make those who approach perfect.
If they actually worked, if they could forgive sin, rather than just make a covering for it. If they could make the offerer perfect wouldn’t you be able to stop them? It says that they can’t, and they not just fail to purify, fail to make us clean and make us perfect before God, they are a continuous reminder of how filthy we are.
Verse 3 says those sacrifices are a reminder of sins every year, because it is impossible for the blood from bulls and goats to take away sins. We shared communion together here a couple of weeks ago on a Wednesday night, and we read about Jesus instituting communion recently on a Sunday morning. Do you remember why He did that? Let’s look again at what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
We are not to be continually in remembrance of the consciousness of our sins and our uncleaness. Jesus says, under this new covenant in His blood, He wants us to remember Him. To remember the greatest act of love ever done. That He took our sin upon Himself. Some of you need to receive the grace that Jesus has for you. Certainly, if you’re not a Christian, I am talking to you.
But I’m also talking to the one who has come to Christ. The one who has been forgiven, that…I won’t say has been unable, because really it is an unwillingness to forgive themselves.
I know you guys remember who this was written to. The Hebrews. Shortly after Jesus went to the cross, fulfilling the Old Testament Law as our perfect propitiation, the perfect substitute for us. The only One who could have paid our debt in full. They received Jesus, but then due to persecution, due to doubt, they were considering going back to the ways of old. Like, OK, I know Jesus has forgiven me in theory, but maybe I’ll throw a goat on the alter…just to be safe.
Some of you struggle with this issue of continually remembering your sin. Jesus says, don’t do that. Remember Me. When you’re tempted to go back to that, when you feel like you need to flog yourself because of all the wicked things you have done in your past. Remember Jesus says, do that no more, they flogged Me. With Joy, I paid that for you and GOD chooses to remember it no more, so don’t you either, Remember ME! I removed your sin as far as the East is from the West so remember Me!
It wasn’t just these guys that had a hard time, letting go of religious tradition. In the last few books we have studied through, we have talked quite a bit about a group we called the Judaizers. These were a group of people similar to these Hebrews, not all of them, but most had been raised Jewish, then came to know Christ. When non-Jews wanted to become Christians,the Judaizers were OK with that, but taught that in order to become Christians they were also going to have to become circumcised first. They would have to follow levitical law, convert to Judaism first and then become Christians.
You might remember an argument broke out about this in Antioch in the book of Acts. Remember that is where the people were from that came down to Lystra and stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city. Nevertheless, starting in Acts 14:26-28
26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. 27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
When we get into chapter 15, Acts 15:1-2
1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
When they got there some of the Pharisees spoke up and said, yeah that sounds right, they should be circumcised, and not only that, but they should also have to follow the law of Moses. So circumcision, 613 laws from Moses, plus Jesus. That didn’t go over well, so a counsel was formed by the elders, later called the Jerusalem counsel.
When you read the account in Acts chapter 15. Discussion turns to dispute, until finally, surprise, surprise, Peter stands up and opens his mouth saying listen guys. God chose to give these Gentiles His Holy Spirit, just like He has to us. God hasn’t distinguished any difference between them and us in that He has purified their hearts through faith, just like He has ours. Then, check this out! He says,
10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
By grace, through faith in Jesus is how we are saved, because the blood of bulls and goats couldn’t cut it. Back in Hebrews verse 5
5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come— In the volume of the book it is written of Me— To do Your will, O God.’ ”
Now if you read ahead, or if you looked this up, then you know that this is a quotation of Psalm 40 verses 6-8, but if you looked it up, you may have noticed that it reads a little bit different than how our bibles do in the Psalms today. The reason for that is that our bibles have the Hebrew Old Testament translated into English. Most of the people that were around in the time this was written spoke Greek. So this quotation is taken from the Septuagint. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Even among the Apostles, probably Paul was the only one who would have know Hebrew. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the meaning of the quotation. The law didn’t satisfy, the heart wasn’t changed, they were all just pointing to Jesus. Verse 8 continues.
8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
One of the many differences between the Old Covenant and the New. The blood of animals was only a covering, it had to be done over and over again, but the offering of the body of Jesus Christ was done once and is complete, once and for all. How is it that Jesus has to tell us to remember this, to remember Him. How is that not a consuming thought every single day?!? Jesus, because of You, this is Me! This is talking about me! The one that is being sanctified, the one that has been purified!
Because of Jesus! Because He offered His body once for all.
Now in case you forgot this from last week to this, verse 11 says...
11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. 15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that marvelous! Let me go back to verse 14 for just a second, I want you to see this and understand this...
14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
Now this is an amazing. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. Now most of your commentaries will tell you that what this means is that the offering that Jesus made on the cross was sufficient to forgive everyone and save everyone (and that I agree biblically is true) however, it is only effective for those that are being sanctified (also biblically true) who are those being sanctified? Us right? Every Christian on the face of this earth should fit into the category of those who are being sanctified.
Sanctification is that process that we go through from the moment we are saved, until that day that we go to Heaven, of purification. Becoming more and more like Jesus. You guys know what I’m talking about. Some of you got saved and it was immediate, well I guess I can’t steal any more bleeping cars. Or whatever your sins were that you were immediately delivered from.
But then overtime, the Holy Spirit said, hey, no more of that language, no more unwillingness to forgive others. No more walking in pride. Sanctification does mean being set apart, but it is also that process of the Holy Spirit cleaning us up over time. That is where most commentaries end on this verse, I want you to see that there is more here.
By one offering He has perfected who is that talking about? Us, the Christian. Those who are being sanctified. Who again is that talking about? Us again. Perfect and being made perfect. It sounds like two different things. I think most of us could buy into that if it was talking about all of us, or all of the church. Maybe you could even look at me as say that guy is being sanctified! I know he’s far from perfect, but he is half the jerk that he was last year.
And then you might look around and think perfect…hmm well Pastor Jim, he’s always so calm and level headed…oh wait no I remember that time in Growth Group, can’t tell you what it was because what happens in growth group stays in growth group. Hmm, what about Sylvie? Yeah, I thought so too until Pastor Brian told me what she said about the kids at the last young mom’s breakfast, or maybe you’ve played a competitive game with her before.
My point is, is that we may think this is talking about a Billy Graham or a Mother Theresa, but its all about us.
We should be able to look at this and say, YES, THAT’S ME! Not at all in a prideful sense, but in awe and gratitude. He has perfected Me, He is sanctifying me! See the moment we are saved. The second we asked Jesus to forgive us of our sins based upon what He did not the cross and not any good work of our own, we are saved and we are made perfect positionally with God.
We will never, be more perfect, more righteous, never any more sinless, not even after a million years in Heaven. Positionally perfect. Experientially, here, now, today... we are being sanctified.
It’s actually kinda funny. The world calls us hypocrites, that we claim to be better than we are. That we profess to be perfect, yet we are nothing but a bunch of sinners. And in one respect they are right. But we’re also hypocrites in that the bible tells us that His sacrifice has made us perfect and we don’t know how to accept that. We haven’t yet grasped how to walk in that. We believe that we are still somehow held in bondage to various sins, when we should be walking in victory, because He paid that high of a price.
And in case we forgot the finality of it, verse 18
18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
When sin has truly been paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus, once and for all, fulfilling the requirement of the law. Paying the penalty of our sin. Where forgiveness has been extended and received, a true remission of sins, then it is finished! Sins have been forgiven and are remembered no more, so there need not be any more offering, no more sacrifice, because Jesus paid it all.
You’ll notice here, finally the doctrine part, the theology of the argument is done and the rest is exhortation (or intense encouragement) and application for them and for us. Verse 19 says...
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
This is just incredible to me. As if the forgiveness of sin forevermore wasn’t enough, we find out that that is truly just the beginning. Because we are forgiven,.... because He consecrated a new and living way for us....we can now have unhindered relationship with our Father, the Holy God. Verse 23.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
So many Christians judge a church, select a church, base their entire evaluation upon what they are getting out of it, and how often they ring their bell. Or they sing the song they like. Or the Pastor is entertaining, or uplifting, or talks about the things their spouse is doing wrong, more than the things that they are doing wrong...
This says we need to be thinking about others not ourselves, and to be encouraging them to do the same. Encouraging them to stir up love. When you read through the whole section that Paul writes in Corinthians about Spiritual gifts he says...
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
So we are to stir that up and encourage it in one another, along with every other good work, done in love. And who is it then that we need to encourage? The discouraged…When we are discouraged we tend to isolate, we separate us from people. These Hebrews were discouraged, apparently some stopped coming to fellowship, or started skipping some of the meetings and the writer says:
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Keep encouraging, keep coming, even more in our day than in theirs as we can so much more see the Day approaching. What day? The Day of the Lord, the second coming of Jesus. Verse 26
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
Now a lot of people preach this verse to mean what they want it to say,... or preach it to not say what they don’t want it to say. I’ll tell you what I don’t believe it to mean. If we sin willfully, not in ignorance, but we are actually choosing to sin, after we are saved. There no longer remains a sacrifice. I know the beginning of the chapter says, Jesus paid the price once and for all, God says He will remember our sin no more, but if we sin and it was anything more than just blind ignorance, (like the storm last night blew all the speed limit signs down on your way to church and you honestly thought it was 75 from your driveway to the parking lot) then we have to re-crucify Jesus if we want any chance at going to Heaven.
I don’t want to offend you, but you probably sinned willfully this week…and it’s the first day of the week, in the morning....
I also don’t explain it away like almost all of the commentaries, many of them will say, if you sin willfully, or chose, to continue on in sin, after hearing about Jesus, you don’t have a sacrifice for your sins, and although that maybe true, or is true rather…this verse is saying more than that.
Remember back in chapter 6, that difficult passage in verses 4-6 where we talked about apostasy. That being different than being a prodigal, different than being a back slider. But an apostate is someone who after having been saved, after knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior, they loose their right mind and reject Him. Not for a season. Right, one who falls into sin after being a Christian would be a backslider, who can always come back.
The apostate identifies themselves as an apostate by never coming back and breathing their last breath apart from Jesus. Well the word knowledge in this verse…For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth. The word knowledge, and I won’t even try to pronounce the Greek, but what it means is a special kind of knowledge. An experiential knowledge. A knowledge that emphasizes a personal acquaintance with. What does that mean?
It means that it’s not just someone who has heard about Jesus, but someone who knows Him personally. Remember this is written to Jewish Christians considering going back and the author keeps driving this spokes out from the center of the wheel saying there is no going back and there is no salvation in anything you could go back to.
I know this has repeatedly said all that was just a shadow, all that was just pointing to Jesus. All the blood of bulls and goats could do was to provide a temporary covering for sin, but not the cure. I tried to think of something that we might be better able to relate to. For me this helps, I don’t know if it will for you. Imagine if you have a medical condition that you need to take medication for. The medication gets you by, but wouldn’t you want to just be healed and not have the underlying condition? Imagine being healed and saying, nah I want to go back to the pill, or the chemo.
OK, this! Your kidneys are shutting down. You are going to die. We will put you on the transplant list, but in the meantime you are going on dialysis. It will cover you for a while, but it won’t cure you. Someone dies, and gives you new life, new kidneys. Or better yet the Lord just miraculously heals you. You don’t need the transplant, you don’t have to take anti-rejection drugs…you are healed, your made new…and then you decide I don’t want the new kidneys anymore, or I reject the healing. I’ll take my old ones back. Sign me up for daily dialysis, I’ve done it for a long time, it’s really what I’m more comfortable with....what? You can’t do that? There’s no salvation in that!
You’re own waste will make you toxic and you will die. Same thing here. After experientially entering into relationship with Jesus, having knowledge of the truth, willfully sinning, turning away from Him, back to Judaism, or by any other sacrifice, any other attempt at salvation, there is no longer any sacrifice. There is no salvation in that.
27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”
31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Amen, it is without the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus between you and Him. Verse 32
32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.
The writer here reminds them, and encourages them to hold on, to stay faithful. After you were illuminated, after you had experiential knowledge, after being saved…yes there was a great struggle with sufferings, but with Jesus, you endured it. Sadly, many Christians think that because they are Christians, they aren’t supposed to have any trials, yet trials are one of the things we are promised, along with that He will never leave us or forsake us in those trials.
Now many people read that statement in verse 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and use that as an argument that this had to be written by the apostle Paul. One problem in that argument is that there is a verse in Acts 5 that says
18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.
So Paul was not the only one who spent some time in the clink. Verse 35, the writer continues on encouraging the Hebrew believers to remember that in times past you have gone through some stuff, and with Jesus, and through the strength you received through fellowship, you endured. Now think back on your past experience, knowing that you have an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven, so endure to the end and finish strong! Verse 35
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
He says you guys aren’t quitters, we aren’t quitter, but we are of those who believe and endure to the end. Church, I know this is tough plowing. But there is application in this for us. It is as if we are in a strange land…almost like we are a church of people on an Island…called Marsh Island in Old Town Maine. Surrounded by water and sharks wanting to kill, destroy and steal. And we have a responsibility to each other, and to the Lord, to grow up strong, so we can help others swim when they are weak.
We have a responsibility to take our eyeballs off of ourselves so we can see when others are getting caught up in the current, or a rip tide is beginning to carry them away or drag them under toward discouragement or isolation. Please find a Growth Group that you can participate in. So a small group of people can do this for you and you can do it for them, because we are of those to believe to the saving of the soul.
Grace and Peace.