Sermon: The Forgiveness of Sin (Hebrews 10:1-18)

The Forgiveness of Sin

Hebrews 10:1-18 (ESV)

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.  [2] Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?  [3] But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year.  [4] For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

[5] Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,

but a body have you prepared for me;

[6] in burnt offerings and sin offerings

you have taken no pleasure.

[7] 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.’ “

[8] 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),  [9] then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  [10] And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

[11] And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  [12] But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,  [13] waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  [14] For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

[15] 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,”

[17] then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

[18] Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

The author is wrapping up his reasons that Jesus and His priestly work exceed that of the Old Testament priest.  From chapter 4:14-10:18 he doesn’t hardly stop to catch his breath.

Hebrews 4:14 (ESV)

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Along the way, he mentions three different times that perfection is needed by those who would worship God and that this perfection can only be acquired through Jesus Christ.  Perfection cannot be acquired through the Old Testament Mosaic system.  It cannot be acquired through any other religion.

Hebrews 7:11 (ESV)

Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?

Hebrews 8:7 (ESV)

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Hebrews 10:2 (ESV)

Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?

All other religions fall short in providing perfection for the worshipper because other religions depend on man’s work or performance to acquire perfection.

1.  Old Testament Sacrifices Cannot Remove Sin (Hebrews 10:1-4)

Many OT worshippers brought their sacrifices to the Lord in the way He prescribed.  Their hearts were sincere and they were blessed.  Their sin was temporarily covered until Jesus came to pay their penalty in full.  When that happened their sin was removed.

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.  [2] Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?  [3] But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year.  [4] For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Their sin was covered but not removed.  They offered God duty but had no change of conscience.  They learned the 10 Commandments but had no Law written on their hearts and minds.  The OT sacrificial system was a dim representation of the amazing bright and glorious future that Christ would bring.  The good things to come would far exceed the shadows of the sacrificial system.

Many OT worshippers brought sacrifices to the Lord as a ritual but without their hearts being committed.  For them, the sacrifice had no effect.  God has always been more interested in the heart of the worshipper than in outward practices and rituals.

The New Covenant takes care of not only the guilt of sin like the old did but also cleanses the worshipper and in scriptural language makes one perfect.

Psalm 51:16-17 (ESV)

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;

you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

[17] The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

God has never been only interested in a sacrifice.  That sacrifice had to be coupled with a repentant heart to be effective.  The amazing thing about the New Covenant is that it gives us repentant hearts.

How did the OT worshipper know that the animal sacrifice could not take away sin?  He knew this because every year another would be offered.  If the OT sacrifice could cleanse the worshipper of sin, there would be no need for next year’s sacrifice.

[4] For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Animal blood cannot cleanse human sin.  Sin is simply too terrible for that.  Only human blood can cleanse human sin.

Romans 10:4 (ESV)

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

The clear deficiency of the Old Covenant was that it could not provide forgiveness for the worshipper.

[2] Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?

Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ removes sin and cleanses one’s conscience of the guilt of sin.

2.  The Reason Christ Came (Hebrews 10:5-10)

[5] Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,

but a body have you prepared for me;

[6] in burnt offerings and sin offerings

you have taken no pleasure.

[7] 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.’ “

[8] 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),  [9] then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  [10] And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

For hundreds of years OT worshippers had been offering animal sacrifices to God in ritual form.  When the worshipper was sincere they were accepted.  When the worshipper exercised faith they we received.  The sacrifice of an animal was to show the seriousness of sin and remind the worshipper that something needed to change.  Year after year this same practice was commanded and year after year it failed to deal with sin.  Then came man’s habitual practices without the right heart attitude.  Many made sacrifices without really thinking about what they meant.  They began to imagine that it was the sacrifice that had some saving work about it.  We’re told in this text and in other places that God never meant for the animal sacrifices to bring about forgiveness of sin because they were never meant for that purpose and always powerless to accomplish that goal.

The Father prepared a human body for His Son.  This human body had but one ultimate purpose.  That was to be the one time supreme sacrifice.  When this sacrifice was made, the old ways were set aside and God was pleased.  Never before since Adam’s sin had God been satisfied with man.  Only now because of the death of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, could God and His people have a true relationship.

Jesus Christ put on flesh and came to earth to do the Father’s will.

[10] And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

3.  Christ Brought Forgiveness (Hebrews 10:11-18)

[11] And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  [12] But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,  [13] waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  [14] For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

A. The Futile Work of Priests

[11] And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

Imagine you’re an OT priest.  You went to work and cut up animals all day long.  You practiced the commanded rituals over and over again.  When the last sacrifice of the day was finished you prepared things for the next morning.  You stand daily in this service, offering over and over the same sacrifices and not one of them could ever accomplish the removal of sin.  I personally would become a vegetarian.  I couldn’t stand to look at a piece of red meat.  All this never accomplished anything.

B. The Finished Work of Christ

[12] But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,  [13] waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  [14] For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Do you see the contrast here in these verses?

The priest stands daily…Jesus sits daily

The priest’s work is continual…Jesus’ work is finished

The priest’s sacrifices never took away sin…Jesus’ sacrifice perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Christ is waiting.  He’s waiting for all his enemies to be destroyed.  The death of Jesus was the first domino in a very long line.  The second domino was death.  Others are lost sinners who will be saved.

The cross was so powerful that the one death set in motion a series of events that will result in all of Jesus’ enemies being placed under His feet.  When that last enemy is defeated the end…or we should say the beginning will come.

Romans 5:10 (ESV)

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Paul and his group of missionaries were once enemies of Jesus.  Rather than experiencing death they were forgiven through the death of Jesus.  Paul was a domino in the long line of enemies that Jesus’ death overcame.

Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God the Father watching as His death mows over one enemy after another.  Some enemies will be reconciled showing His mercy.  Some enemies will be judged showing His justice.  All will be placed in subjection to His authority.

C.  The Forgiveness of Sin

[15] 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,”

[17] then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

[18] Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Here in these last verses for today, the writer pulls together his two themes.  The New Covenant means forgiveness of sin and perfection for the worshipper.  The Lord has taken His enemies and out of them produced those who worship Him.  Those who used to hate the Lord now adore Him.

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, God forgets the sin of His people.

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.

He also declares that His law is now written on our hearts.  This takes place when the worshipper is indwelt with the Holy Spirit. If you’re sitting here today as reconciled enemies you have proof that the NC has been set in motion because you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit.

All of our past present and future sins are forgiven and forgotten for all eternity because of Jesus Christ.  He also gives us His righteousness which produces a perfected worshipper.

Ephes. 1:3-8 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,  [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

[5] he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  [6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

Because the elect have been perfected forever, and our sins destroyed by the death of Christ, there is no need for any further offering for sin.  All other means of dealing with sin are meaningless.  Only Jesus and His death can bring forgiveness of sin.  Apart from Christ salvation is impossible.

Some will say, that’s true for Christians.  For a Christian salvation comes through Jesus.  Listen, there is no salvation for any human being apart from Jesus.  I don’t care how much someone prays, fasts, or how devoted they are.  I don’t care how many good things they do.  Unless they have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation they will be lost for all time.

What does it mean to have your sins forgiven?

Are you living in light of the finished work of Christ?

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