The sacrifice of Christ Jesus the Lord.
A powerful quote from Hebrews 1
"He accomplished cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt" (Amplified Bible)
The Lord Jesus said:
"The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep......I lay down my life that I may take it up again.... this charge I have received from my Father" John 10:11-18
The death of Jesus Christ was not unfortunate, martyrdom or just empathetic . It was determined by God for a distinct purpose.
The theme runs through all scripture, but for a moment I would like to consider the letter to the Hebrews, linked to the OT book of Leviticus.
Hebrews 1 – looking on the creation through God's eyes. The problem of offence and the stain of uncleanness must be attended to. This is not about how we feel nor is it altogether about our forgiveness (although that is involved). It is about God at work, recovering, redeeming, restoring, remitting, reinstating, rescuing ... His creation. This takes more than power. It required a sacrifice.
This is so important when we come to the sacrifices of Moses law. They are parables to indicate the devastation and costliness of sin. And the means by which God has restored the lost creation to Himself. The grand destination of 'God at work ' , is written in chapter twelve. " You have come to mount Zion, even the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to countless multitudes of angels in festal gathering, the church of the firstborn who are registered as citizens of heaven." 12:22
John the baptizer captured this transformation when he pointed to Jesus and said "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" – this implied the removal of sin and the total restoration of the divine purpose in His Son.
Hebrews chapter 4 – God rests because of the sacrifice made
Hebrews 9-11 - God's promise will be fulfilled – He will return
Hebrews 13 – God holds secure all who trust in the Great shepherd.
Let me ponder the sacrifices of the Old Covenant for a moment – why bother? The shadows of the reality teach much about how God sees sin and the sacrifice of His Son.
Sin was very costly – forgiveness of sins was costly. When one sinned the sinner was to bring to the alter an animal of the highest quality ( without stain or defect). A trespass against someone else or a failure to do God's command necessitated someone or something pay the debt of offence against God. In the Old Covenant it was an innocent animal that died for the guilty. In the New Covenant it is Jesus Christ who died for the guilty. He alone was Holy and without stain or defect!
The peace offering was also an innocent animal presented to celebrate peace with God. On this occasion, the offerer could eat and share the meat of the sacrifice. Thus fellowship with God and others was on the basis of the sacrifice. Likewise in the New Testament, the togetherness of the believers is founded upon the blood of Christ and the cross of Christ ( see Ephesians).
The Gift or grain offering was flour mixed with oil and frankincense , presented to God as a sweet smelling savour. It was not for atonement of sins, but a gift of something grow in the earth, then milled and presented to God by fire. What is this about? This is God appreciating the life and death of Jesus, the only man who ultimately pleased God. Even in the torture and rejection of His sufferings, His character was not spoiled by sin or inappropriate reactions. His life was as a sweet aroma to God.
The burnt offering is the story of Hebrews 10. " we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time". Forgiveness of sins is good. Fellowship with others is great. Understanding and giving thanks for Jesus is worship. But now the burnt offering brings the unworthy one right into acceptance with God. The offerer brought the best of the herd, the leader, the progenitor, the strong one. This was presented to God and the priest was to keep and use the skin. What is the meaning ? - our only acceptance with God , now or in eternity is as we are 'in Christ". God sees our works, He hears our prayers, He knows all about us, but it is only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Lord from heaven, that we are accepted.
"God spared not His own Son, but gave HIM up for us all" (Romans 8:32)
"The Son of God loved me and gave HIMSELF for me" (Galatians 2:20)
Note : in the New Testament, the atonement is usually connected with the title 'Christ' – the Messiah anointed for the purpose by God.
As quoted above, the burnt offering is linked to the title 'Son of God'.
The achievement of the sacrifice is not so much related to the extent of suffering, but to the value of the one who died. Please search out this truth in the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His apostles. The terminology of the Holy Spirit is very precise.
Our confidence is complete and we rest with God in the forever sacrifice because the one who offered Himself without spot to God was:
In Him was no root of sin
His life and character was not defiled by corruption around Him
His coming from heaven and commission to speak for was affirmed by God the Father
His deity as "Son of God" qualified Him to yield His life up for others.
Well might we look at those pierced hands and feet and declare with Thomas – " My Lord and my God"
Finally . Hebrews 13 surprises us with this statement " we have an alter from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat....... through HIM then let us continually offer up the sacrifice of praise to God , that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name."
We no longer need the alter, the sacrifices of the old covenant, for Jesus Christ the LORD from heaven has fulfilled His promise. He said He would "give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). So in the freedom and sanctification of the final sacrifice and the indwelling Holy Spirit, ' let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe.'(Hebrews 12)
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