Have you ever contrasted the Old Testament system of sacrifices and worship with what we have in the New Testament?
It would appear, from what is contained in the Letter to the Hebrews, that many Christians from a Jewish background were beginning to turn their backs on Jesus to return to the Old Mosaic Law. The writer of Hebrews wrote (many think this may have originally been a sermon) to show that going back to the Law of Moses was a step backward.
The Mosaic system was not perfect and did not bring perfection to the people. “On the one hand a former command is set aside because it is weak and useless, for the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God” (Hebrews 7:18-19 NET). The weakness of the Mosaic Law was simply this: although it could identify what sin was and was not, there was no means of getting rid of sin (the Hebrews writer discusses this at length in chapter 10). In this way the law was weak and useless.
Yes, there was a system of sacrificing animals for sin. Yet animals cannot take away the sins of humans. By being obedient to the law and making the required sacrifices, sins were referred to as being forgiven, yet they still had to do the same thing year after year. In essence, these sacrifices were pointing towards a better sacrifice which was still to come. This was why they had to replace priests, because the sacrifices had to continue each year, well beyond one priest’s lifetime.
“And the others who became priests were numerous, because death prevented them from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently since he lives forever. So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all. For the law appoints as high priests men subject to weakness, but the word of solemn affirmation that came after the law appoints a son made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:23-28 NET).
This is where Jesus comes in as a better high priest. Because he was sinless, he does not need to make a sacrifice every day and he does not have to make sacrifices for his own sin. Instead, he offered himself as the perfect sacrifice one time for all time and for all people. Because of this, he holds his priesthood permanently and is able to save completely those who come to God through him.
So, which do we want? A covenant with God that makes nothing perfect because it cannot deal with our sin? Or a better hope through a perfect sacrifice that removes sin once and for all? We would say it really is a no brainer!
Jesus paid the price for the sin of humanity. That means he paid the price for your sins and my sins. He is the perfect sacrifice. He is the perfect high priest. He has given us a better, new covenant (Hebrews 9:15). Our part now is to eagerly await his coming to bring permanent salvation (Hebrews 9:27-28). Are we looking forward to that day?
Readings for next week:
7 March – Hebrews 13
8 March – Romans 1
9 March – Romans 2
10 March – Romans 3
11 March – Romans 4