Our Wonderful Savior
It is perhaps a bit arrogant to entitle an article with the above heading. Maybe “A Few Thoughts” about our wonderful savior would be more appropriate. The thoughts in this article are based on Hebrews 10:1–31.
Every blessing of God, every grace that He bestows, every occasion of forgiveness, is made possible by the work of Jesus Christ. His pre-incarnate activity is noted in the first chapter of John’s Gospel as well as the first chapter of Hebrews. The work Jesus performed in His flesh as the Lamb of God, and now in heaven as our great High Priest are the focal points in the book of Hebrews. His coming did not merely give us material for the gospels, or simply give us a wonderful example, or show One who perfectly kept the Old Testament law. Rather, His life was in view of His death, and led to His perfection forever as sacrifice and priest. The one word that describes that life is “Savior”. We affirm this each time we pronounce His name, because “Jesus” means “Savior” (Matthew 1:21).
The author of the book of Hebrews addressed Jewish Christians who were undergoing hardships for their faith. Some were even tempted to forsake Christ and to go back to Judaism. Most of what the writer says is set against the backdrop of the Old Testament system. His readers were familiar with that system, and Christians today must be familiar with the Old Testament in order to understand Hebrews. Our appreciation of the New Testament will be enhanced (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 10:11). This article considers Hebrews 10:1–31, and involves three major thoughts: The work of Jesus Christ; blessings based on that work; and warnings growing out of the work.
The Work of Jesus is set against the backdrop of the thousands of Old Testament sacrifices that had been offered. These sacrifices contained shadows of good things to come, but left people imperfect. The sacrifices were repeated again and again, but the conscience of the one offering the sacrifice was not completely cleared. The next time he or she sinned, another sacrifice was necessary. In fact, it was impossible that the blood of animals could take away sins. Such sacrifices reminded men of their sins, and that by them God provisionally forgave these sins (Romans 3:24–26; Hebrews 9:15, 16).
The reason that animals were killed and sacrificed was that a life had to be given for blood to be acquired (Leviticus 17:11, 12). The Old Testament animal sacrifices involved not only the animal’s death, but the presenting the blood before God. Since the blood represented the life, the presenting of that blood was actually the presenting of a life. God accepted that life in the place of the sinner’s life, and therefore spared the sinner from death. The blood of animals could not take away sin because an animal is amoral—it is not conscious of right or wrong. God responded to the faith and obedience of the one bringing the sacrifice by forgiving his sins, but He could not on that basis take away sins forever nor perfect the conscience. Something remained to be done—the living of an obedient life by a moral human being.
The work that Jesus did on the earth was to live a perfect life. He did no sin; no guile was found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22). This work was described in Psalm 40:6–8 (NKJV): “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.’” Jesus came not to offer more animal sacrifices, but to do the will of God. God has always wanted human obedience first of all; sacrifices were required because of disobedience and had never been God’s first request from His people (cf. 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 51:16, 17; Jeremiah 7:21–23; Micah 6:6–8). Jesus came to do the will of God, to obey God as a man, in fulfillment of prophecy (Hebrews 10:7). His perfect life, sacrificed and presented to God, made further animal sacrifices unnecessary.
Jesus’ present ministry for us is that of High Priest, calling attention to the offering of His life already presented to God and accepted. He made a single offering and has now taken His seat with God as King-Priest (Hebrews 10:11–13). The blessings that come to us in our union with Jesus are summarized in the two following statements:
1. The Christian has boldness in the presence of God (Hebrews 10:19, 20). Boldness involves confident trust and assurance as we come before God. It is not audacity or irreverence, it is not based on our own merit, reputation, record, etc. We have boldness because we have the blood of Jesus given for our souls. We come to God always “in His name”.
2. The Christian has a High Priest who mediates for him. He “always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
Three exhortations are based on these blessings: (1) let us draw near in confident faith; (2) let us hold fast our personal profession of faith in Christ without wavering; and (3) let us consider one another to stir up love and good works as we live lives modeled after our Savior. We should meet together frequently and avail ourselves of all opportunities to encourage each other.
Five warnings are given to the Hebrew brethren (and to us):
1. Because Jesus’ sacrifice was “once for all,” it is the only sacrifice God will ever accept for our sins.
2. The Christian who rejects Christ’s offering by willfully leaving Him as Lord and Savior has no other salvation.
3. Drastic results come from desertion from Christ; including trampling the Son of God underfoot, counting his blood as a common thing, and insulting the Spirit of God.
4. Great punishment awaits those who rebel against God and will demonstrate God’s severe judgment and fiery indignation.
5. The dread of such punishment is illustrated by references to God’s vengeance, His judgment, and the resulting fear of falling into the hands of the living God.
Because of Christ’s accomplishments for us in the flesh, because of the blessings that work for us in Him, and because of the terrible consequences of leaving Him, let each Christian draw near to God, hold fast to his own faith, and encourage his brother in love and good works!