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,
16 “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. – Hebrews 10:11-18 ESV
Year after year, sacrifice after sacrifice, the Israelites followed God’s instructions regarding His pattern for receiving atonement for their sins. The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar and it means “to cover.” In the sacrificial system, atonement was achieved when an innocent, unblemished lamb, bull, or goat was sacrificed and its blood was sprinkled on the altar to “cover” the sins of the guilty party.
The death of an innocent animal was used to pay for the sins of a guilty individual. The sacrifice involved the shedding of blood, which was necessary to atone for the sins, essentially hiding them from God’s eyes. But this process was only partial in nature. It could not completely remove the guilt of sin and the penalty of death that it incurred. Each sacrifice was temporary in terms of its effectiveness and limited in duration. Every day, the priests had to stand ready to offer additional sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. It was an endlessly repeated process because the hearts of the people remained unchanged. They could not stop sinning against God because they lacked the inner power to keep His divine laws and holy decrees. And the sacrifices they offered could “never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11 ESV) – at least not completely or permanently.
But when Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross, it was a one-time deal that never had to be repeated. And because His sacrifice was effective, He was raised back to life by His heavenly Father and restored to His rightful place in heaven.
For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. – Hebrews 10:14 NLT
Because the sacrifice of His sinless life satisfied the just demands of God, Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12 ESV). His mission was complete. He had accomplished the will of His Heavenly Father by atoning for all the sins of humanity, for all time.
Quoting from the prophet, Jeremiah, the author of Hebrews reminds His Jewish readers that God had long ago predicted the moment when a new and better covenant would be enacted.
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” – Jeremiah 31:33 NLT
God was revealing through His prophet that a day was coming when He would make a new covenant with the people of Israel. Rather than having to rely on some kind of external code of conduct (the Law), they would have God’s will planted right in their hearts. The motivation to obey God would come from inside and not outside. In addition, God promised to provide permanent forgiveness for sins.
“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” – Jeremiah 31:34 NLT
The author of Hebrews reveals that these former promises that were provided centuries earlier to Jeremiah, had been the work of the Holy Spirit. They were divinely “breathed out” by God through His Spirit to Jeremiah but never took place in Jeremiah’s lifetime. They were prophetic in nature and pointed to a future day when God would implement His new covenant plan through His Son’s death, burial, and resurrection.
God was letting Jeremiah know that hope was not lost. Despite the people’s rejection of Jeremiah’s message and their refusal to repent of their sins and return to God, there was a silver lining on the dark cloud of God’s judgment. A brighter future was on the horizon. God was going to provide a sacrifice that would take care of man’s sin problem once and for all. No more temporary, partial atonement.
…where there is forgiveness…there is no longer any offering for sin. – Hebrews 10:18 ESV
Because Jesus offered His body and blood as payment for mankind’s sin debt to God, there is nothing more required for sinners to be made right with God. That does not mean that those who place their faith in Christ’s sacrificial death are free to live however they want to live. Paul dealt with this misconception in his letter to the believers in Rome.
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? – Romans 6:1-2 NLT
Paul went on to shoot further holes in this misguided and dangerous assumption.
Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. – Romans 6:15-16 NLT
We are free from the Law (rules and regulations) when it comes to our salvation. But we are not free to live as we choose. As children of God, we are expected to live lives in keeping with our new status as His adopted heirs. That is why Peter strongly encouraged believers to live in a way that reflected their new identity in Christ.
So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. – 1 Peter 1:13-15 NLT
We no longer have to obey God’s law in order to be made right with Him. We obey God because we have been made right with Him through faith in His Son. We obey out of love, not obligation. We pursue righteousness, not in order to earn favor with God, but out of gratitude for the favor He has shown us by sending His Son to die for us.
For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. – Hebrews 9:14 NLT
Consider the implications of that verse. We are already seen as righteous in God’s eyes. And yet, we are in the process of being sanctified or continually set apart for His use. We are positionally holy and yet, we are being made progressively holy.
We are already right with God, but at the same time, God is transforming us into the image of His Son. That is why we are commanded to put off the old nature and put on the new. We are to die to ourselves daily and to live for Christ because we are in the continual process of transformation that will one day be completed by our glorification by God. It is then that we will receive new redeemed bodies and complete freedom from the effects of sin and the threat of death. But, in the meantime, as we wait for that glorious day, we have work to do.
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NLT
Our salvation is God’s doing, not ours. In his letter to the Romans, Paul describes this as “the gospel of God.” He further defines it as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17 ESV).
Faith in our own human effort? No. He is talking about faith in the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. Our salvation is based on God’s plan, Christ’s work, and the Spirit’s power. We brought nothing to the table. In fact, Paul paints a vivid picture of just how amazing the grace of God and the gift of His Son really is.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV
We have been fully forgiven. Our debt has been paid. Our future is secure. And our response is to live in willful, joyful obedience to the One who made it all possible.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.