I was thinking the other day of the Pharisee mentioned by Jesus in one of His parables, this one being found in Luke 18:9-14. As he prayed to God, he seemed to define himself with a brief list: “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (v12). I suspect the list could have been longer, but nonetheless, it was a list. His confidence was in his list, even though he was talking to the Creator of the list.
And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly
the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
The writer of Hebrews seems to echo this idea of endless effort with no actual return for that effort: much like what we looked at last week. The priest “stands,” showing, as one commentator put it, “that their sacrifices had always to be repeated” (F.F. Bruce). The relentless duties of the priest, along with those bringing the sacrifices, would do one of two things: point mankind to Jesus and put their trust in Him or, like the Pharisee in the parable, begin to put our trust in ourselves through obedience. The second thought is one which we should be cautious about, as we walk with Christ.
But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever,
sat down at the right hand of God…
Christ sat down! His task was finished! The “repetition of the sacrifices indicates the ineffectiveness of the act” of the sacrifices year after year. “Christ does what the Levitical system could not do in taking away sins, and he inaugurates the new covenant” (James Thompson) where man can finally be “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). This “being sanctified” is not speaking of something that has not been completed; but rather, how the act of having been sanctified through Christ (v10) continues as we live out our lives for Christ (v14). He has made me, and continues to make me, sanctified!
The Pharisee whom I mentioned at the beginning clearly realizes the presence of God, but seemed to focus more on what he did than on God and his need for Him. He did his works and thus he thought he was okay. We too, can easily get entangled in such thinking by evaluating ourselves through performance. We do, in order to be. But in so doing, we minimize Christ’s work. You see, I am sanctified, not by the abundance of work I do through obedience to Christ; but rather, I am sanctified through His work, that was sufficiently done on the cross. So why should I do things? Because He did what I couldn’t. Dennis