How to be made Perfect

November 18, 2008

Why did Jesus lay down His life? What was accomplished on the cross? Sacrifices in the temple already atoned for sins (or, covered; removed sins), a truth made plain in that the author of Hebrews wrote that “if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law” (8:4). What animal sacrifices could never do, however, was to cleanse our conscience (9:13-14; 10:1-2). When he wrote that “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (10:4), speaking of the Day of Atonement (cp. Lev. 16:6-10), he did not mean that these sacrifices had actually done nothing all along, because clearly they did atone for sins (Lev. 17:11); what is meant here, then, is that these sacrifices could never cause a man, let alone a corporate people, to be perfect (Heb. 10:1).

But this is what Christ’s sacrifice was able to do that no other could. And this is what is meant by the promise of the new covenant, where God will no longer remember our sins (Jer. 31:31-34). When our Messiah was cut off, He ended sacrifice and offering (Dan. 9:27a), meaning that there was no longer a need for the Day of Atonement, because by His blood we are made a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), able to attain perfectness and to enter the promised Sabbath rest of God (Heb. 6:1; 4:9). This is because in Christ we stand before God as sons, now able to have a right relationship with Him. Our old man died with Christ, and our new man was risen with Christ. I am not the same man I once was, and I can testify of this because of His blood and my own crucified – or judged (Col. 3:5-11) – old man (cp. Rev. 12:11). His was not what is so commonly termed a “substitutionary” death, but a dying that we must sympathize with through daily participation if we are to ever cease from sinning (Rom. 6:1-11).

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