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The Blood of Jesus and the Blood of Animals

The writer of the book of Hebrews is explaining in chapter 10 why Jesus was necessary as a sacrifice for sins. After declaring “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins,” the writer of Hebrews quotes the words of David from Psalm 40: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 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” (Hebrews 10:5-7). Our first point of interest in the quotation is that the writer of Hebrews states the quotation as Christ speaking these words, not David. Therefore, either David was prophesying and not speaking of himself in psalm 40, or the writer of Hebrews by inspiration applies Davids words to Christ, while David was referring to his own circumstances.

The writer of Hebrews now explains how these words apply to Jesus: “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), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will. He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:8-10).

The writer of Hebrews continues to refer these words as spoken by Jesus himself. After saying that God did not desire sacrifices and offerings, Jesus says that he came to this earth to do the will of God. What did Christ come to do? The scripture says He came to abolish the first in order to establish the second. Abolish the first what and establish the second what? Verse 10 says that it is by the second will that we have been sanctified. The writer of Hebrews is talking about wills, or covenants. In our day, we would call this a “last will and testament.” Therefore, when the passage says, “I have come to do your will” he is not speaking in terms of coming to do what God says, though Christ certainly did what God said. But that is not the point. When it says that he came to do Gods will, the writer of Hebrews is speaking about Gods covenant or testament. Christ came to fulfill or complete Gods covenant. Now the writer of Hebrews explains what it means for Christ to fulfill Gods will (covenant). Christ took away the first will (covenant) and established a second will (covenant). It is through this second will (covenant) that we are sanctified (made holy) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.

By quoting psalm 40, the writer of Hebrews has made two important points. First, the blood of animals does not take away sins. If animal blood had taken away sins, God would desire sacrifice and burnt offerings. But these requirements of the law did not take away sins (Hebrews 10:4,8). Second, by Christ fulfilling the law, he was able to set aside the first covenant with its condemnation of our sins and establish a new covenant that does take away our sins (sanctifies us). The old covenant sacrifices did not take care of our sins nor removed the reminder of guilt caused by the sacrifices. Often people have read Hebrews 10:3 out of its context: “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year.” Thus, you may have heard it taught that under the old covenant (law of Moses) God remembered the sins of the people every year. But that is not at all what the writer of Hebrews is teaching. Rather, the writer is telling us the that the worshipers were reminded of the guilt of their sins every year. Read the passage in its context: “Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year” (Hebrews 10:2-3).

There is a second great problem with the old covenant sacrifices. Not only did those sacrifices of animals not remove the sins of the people, but the guilt in the conscience of the people was not removed either. Every year they continued to offer sacrifices for their sins which only served as a reminder for all of their transgressions. But the sacrifice of Jesus Christ removes our sins and our guilt away from us. This is one of the great blessings we miss in this text. The blood of Christ takes away the reminder of sin because our sins have been fully dealt with by Christ and we are now sanctified. Jesus was sacrificed once for all time, in contrast to the yearly animal sacrifices of the first covenant, so that those under the new covenant no longer have the guilt of sins remaining on our consciences. How great it is to be washed in the blood of the Lamb!

When we are washed in the blood of the Lamb by being immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-7), we are not only have our transgressions and iniquities washed from our lives so that we stand before God sanctified and justified, we also have the guilt of sin that we carry in our consciences also washed away. No Christian should continue to feel the guilt of sin once they have been forgiven because the sacrifice of Jesus was made to take away all our sins. When we continue to carry the guilt of sin upon us after we have repented and confessed our sins to the Lord (1 John 1:9), in effect we are doubting the sacrifice of Jesus. We are declaring to the Lord that we do not believe Jesus’ sacrifice was effective on our sins. True disciples of Jesus should never doubt the washing away of their sins so long as we continue to be a servant of the Lord (Romans 11:20-22).