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Made Perfect by One Sacrifice

Date: May. 7, 2017

Author: Michael Mark

Hebrews 10:1-18

Key Verse: Hebrews 10:14

“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

When you hear the word “perfect,” what comes to mind?  There is this concept of perfection where everything is right, or good.  A perfect score on the SAT is 1600, and that means no questions were answered wrong.  Finals week has just finished here at IIT, how many of you got perfect scores on your tests?  Perfect attendance at school means you did not miss one day of class.  In baseball, a perfect game means that nobody on the opposing team reaches a base.  In the Olympics, a score of a perfect 10 means the routine was executed flawlessly.  But what does it mean that a person is perfect?  People might be able to do some things perfectly, but as the saying goes, “Nobody’s perfect.”  What does this mean?  It means we have flaws.  We even see those who are perfectionists as flawed people.  What hope do those who are not perfectionists have?  Still many people try to strive for perfection.  We try to find the perfect job or spouse.  We try to show the perfect life on social media.  We try to hide our imperfections to make people think we are perfect, but in reality, nobody is perfect.  Morally, ethically, nobody is perfect.  We have character flaws.  Sometimes we get angry.  Sometimes we get arrogant.  Sometimes we lie.  There is darkness in all of our hearts.  To be perfect means to be perfectly good, to not have any personal flaws.  You can also say to be perfectly good is to be perfectly righteous. That’s the definition of good: that what is right.  Ask most people, is there a way to be perfect, and they will not know the answer.  But here we see in our passage today that there is indeed a way that we are made perfect.

We are made perfect through a sacrifice, and this sacrifice can only be done for us by a priest.  That’s why the priesthood of Jesus is so important in our study of Hebrews.  We have covered it in the last 5 chapters and messages, and today we conclude the argument that Jesus is the greatest priest of all.  Last week, in Dan’s message, we learned about a better sacrifice that Jesus had to offer to God: his very own precious blood.  We learned how great this precious blood is.  This week we will continue to think about how his sacrifice is better, and see that this is the once and final sacrifice to accomplish that great and gracious will of God: to make us perfect.

Look at v.1: “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.  For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.”  The law here refers to the animal sacrifices that God commanded the Jewish people to make ever since they were delivered out of Egypt.  This is because, as we learned last week, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22).  The author of Hebrews tells us that this is only a shadow of the good things that are coming.  How is the law a shadow of any good thing?  Well, it is because the law has its benefits.  It was this law that saved the firstborn children of Israel when the angel of death passed over Egypt.  It is this law that enables God to pass over their sins.

We see then, there was some good result from the law, so what was the problem?  It is this: though the law passed over sins, it did not take them away.  We see this because it had to be repeated endlessly year after year.  It was an annual reminder of sins.  It’s like a loan, or a debt you have.  When you make the monthly payment, you feel good, you feel relieved because you made a payment on what you owe.  But next month’s bill is a reminder that you are still paying this loan.  So while the Jews could atone for sin year after year, the fact that they are required to do it again shows that their sin had not really been taken away.

In fact, it says in v.4, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”  This is very clear: it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  We can see why it is impossible, in verses 5-7: “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.  Then I said, ‘Here I am - it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, my God.’’”  God did not desire animals because they do not have the same nature as man.  It was man who sinned, so it is man who should be offered as atonement.  When you collect a debt, you want something that’s of equal or greater value.  Suppose I got really mad at one of you, and I took your iPhone and threw it against a wall.  How would you expect me to pay you back?  Will you accept my 10 year old Nokia flip phone?  No way!  Will you accept my own broken iPhone?  Never!  You want an iPhone like the one you had before I broke it, or better.  Only then will you be satisfied.  So the only acceptable price for the sin of man is a perfect man.

It was impossible for the sacrifices to take away sins because they were not the same nature, nor were they the same value as that which was broken.  God was also not pleased with them because they were unwilling sacrifices.  Bull and goats cannot sign a form saying they agree, by shedding their blood they will atone for your sin.  They cannot consent to their sacrifice.  God is not pleased burnt offerings and sin offerings – what is he pleased with?  He is pleased with free and real obedience.  God is not pleased with forced, coerced, or reluctant obedience.  Can you imagine, if you asked your child to get you a glass of water, and he stomps to the kitchen, forces open the sink, comes back to you, and slams the glass on the table.  What would you say?  You’d say, “check your attitude, young man!”  God does not desire reluctant or unwilling obedience, but desires free and willing obedience, because this is the only real obedience.

If these sacrifices were so weak, so undesirable, so imperfect, why did God require them?  For two reasons.  One is, that it would show the Israelites the true depth of their sin.  How bad was their sin? So bad that it required continuous blood sacrifices, year after year.  Second is that it served as a shadow of the good things that were to come.  It was a shadow of the blood sacrifice necessary for perfection and salvation.  It is like a pencil sketch, compared to a completed masterpiece painting.  God only meant for the law to be a glimpse of the realities of the good things that were coming.

The imperfect sacrifices were just a shadow of the perfect sacrifice, the good things that were to come.  What were these good things that were to come?  Look again at v.5a, “Therefore, when Christ came into the world.”  The good things to come were salvation, perfection, and freedom from sin, and all of these come through Jesus Christ.  Jesus was not like the shadow, he is the reality, and the realization of salvation, perfection and freedom from sin.  Look again at all of verse 5: “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.’”  Jesus saw our deplorable state.  He looked down from heaven and saw our misery and our bondage to sin.  He had pity on us, and compassion.  He resolved to redeem us, he determined to save us, so the Eternal Son of God clothed himself in human flesh, and came into our world.

Jesus came to do the will of God.  What was that will of God?  Look at v.9-10, “Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’  He sets aside the first to establish the second.  And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  The will of God was to sacrifice his one and only Son, so that we might be made holy, so that we might be made perfect.  The reason Jesus came was to take away the sin of the world.  No other god ever came to take away the sin of the world.  No other god ever came to save sinners.  Only Jesus.  John the Baptist testified this to all of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29).  It was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, but behold Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  It was God’s will to lay on him the iniquity of us all, to bear the burden of all of our sins.  It was God’s will to make him an offering and a sacrifice for sin.  “He sets aside the first to establish the second.”  Jesus puts and end to the sacrifice of animals to establish the sacrifice of himself.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.  He was perfect because he was fully man and fully God.  He had the same nature as a man, yet had infinite value as the Son of God.  He was the eternal Son of God, who could take upon himself the eternal weight of the wrath of God.  He was the sinless Son of God, who did what we could not do – perfectly obey the will of God.  He gave his entire life in obedience to God, even to the point of death.  He willingly laid down his life to become our sacrifice.  Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because he satisfied the justice of God to punish sin, and at the same time enabled God to justify us.  He was the perfect sacrifice, because he was the ultimate expression of God’s love for us: that he would give us his one and only Son.  At any angle you look at the sacrifice of Jesus, you will find that it was perfect, and done perfectly.  And one more proof of the perfect sacrifice of Christ: Look at v.10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.”  Once for all.  Jesus’ sacrifice was so perfect, it only needed to be done once, and it was complete.

Look at v.11-13, “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.” Notice the contrast between every other priest, and this priest Jesus.  Day after day the priests stand and perform religious duties.  They were standing daily because offerings had to be continually made.  But after Jesus offered one sacrifice for sins, he sat down.  The work was completed.  He also sat down at the right hand of God – a position of power and authority.  Here we see Jesus is the King, next to the right hand of God.  He is priest, and he is king.  He is a priest in the order of Melchizedek.  His priesthood is eternal.  And we see that he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.  This alludes to his second coming.  At that time, all of the enemies of Christ will be destroyed, but salvation has been accomplished.  Heb 9:28 says, “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Since that sacrifice, everything has been completed, Jesus need only wait now until he comes again.

The effect of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice was to make us perfect.  Look at v.14.  Can we all please read v.14 together.  “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”  I will say it again: we have been made perfect by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.  The work is so complete that this perfect state will last forever.  It will never wear off or expire.  Not in 10 years, not in 100 years, not even in 1 million years.  By his one sacrifice, we have been made perfect forever.

On what basis can we trust this statement?  How can we really know it’s true?  Look at v.15-16, “The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this.  First he say: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”  We can believe that we are made perfect forever because God himself testifies to this fact.  We are made perfect not by law, but by a promise.  We are made perfect not by our works, but by the grace of God.  The new covenant, which the author brings up in v.16, is a promise from God that he will do what he says he is going to do.  The establishment of this new covenant, the act that sets this new covenant into motion is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  And this is the main point of that promise.  This is what the author wanted to highlight to show us that truly we are made perfect forever.  Look at v.17: “Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’”  This is the foundation of our eternal perfection.  It is not based on works, but on the promise of God.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus, God will no longer hold our sins and lawless acts against us.  He will forgive our sins.  The record of our sins will be wiped clean.  In Christ, we are blameless, undefiled, spotless, without blemish, flawless, unreproachable.  In a word, we are declared righteous in Christ.  Holy.  Moral and ethical perfection.  We are cleansed on the inside.  This is perfection.  And he will remember our sins and lawless acts no more.  This means forever.  Your sins will not be held against you, in Jesus Christ, from the moment you believe, until forever.

The author gives one final evidence for your eternal perfection in v.18: “And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”  There is no longer any need for the altar in Jerusalem, and the daily and annual animal sacrifices.  And brothers and sisters, we can see this with our very own eyes.  There once existed a place where animal sacrifices were offered to God in Jerusalem.  The foundations of it are still there.  The Temple Mount is still in Jerusalem.  But is the Temple there?  No, it is not, because it is no longer needed.  They could build whatever they want on top of that mount now, because the work is finished.  Whenever you look at the Temple Mount, and you see that the Temple is no longer there, you can be assured that the one sacrifice that made you perfect has been completed.  And it has been completed forever.  So don’t worry if they try to build another Temple there, it has no effect – your perfection was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day.

Your perfection doesn’t begin when Christ comes again.  Your perfection begins now, from the moment you believed.  Let’s take a look again at v.16 to see what this perfection looks like: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”  Now, I don’t know if this is the same experience for everyone, so I am trying to explain what perfection looks like based on this passage, also knowing that perfection does begin when we believe.  When we believe that we have been cleansed, made perfect, clothed in the absolutely wonderful righteousness of Christ, our love for God can grow.  And the more we love God, the more we desire to please him, and obey him.  God puts his laws in our hearts so that we will begin to know what is right and what is wrong.  We can begin to see more how we might sin against God, or against one another, and lead us to repent.  We know when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us and purify us (1 John 1:9).  We also know we are forgiven sinners, so we strive more and more to live by the grace of God, growing in love toward God and toward one another daily.  I believe these are the evidences of a perfected soul.  We are perfect, not based on our merits, but on Christ’s.  Jesus challenged his disciples even to love their enemies, saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48).  Peter writes not to conform to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance, but “just as he who called you is holy, be holy in all you do (1 Pet 1:15).”  The laws God puts into our hearts help us to do these things, but first there must be trust in the sacrifice of Christ.  We may not look completely perfect now, but as we grow in holiness, when Jesus comes again our full perfection will be realized and brought forward.  Our faces will shine like his, as it did in his transfiguration, and when he comes again, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt 13:43).  This is what I think perfection will look like now, and in the future.

Real perfection is holiness.  Nobody’s perfect, but you can be by faith in Jesus Christ.  What you once may have thought was out of reach, has been given to you by God through a promise and a sacrifice.  Right now we are all marching steadily toward imperfection.  My perfect black hairs are turning gray.  My metabolism ain’t what it used to be.  25 year olds are running laps around me in the gym.  But in Christ I have hope.  I have hope that this dead body will be resurrected.  I don’t know what it will look like, but 1 Cor 15 tells us that it will be glorious, immortal, imperishable.  That’s all I really need to know for now.  It sounds perfect.  But best of all is, that we get to meet and live forever with the holy and perfect God, in his great kingdom, with our Creator and the Creator of all the universe – we get to live forever with the very One who loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son as a sacrifice for sins so that we may be made perfect forever.

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