Christ’s Perfect Sacrifice- Hebrews 10:1
As we begin our examination of Hebrews 10, we begin with a reminder of the context of the entire letter, for it is in this context that the writer discusses the idea of sacrifice which is found here. As we will recall, some Hebrews who had professed faith in Christ were still participating in the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, and he explains here why those old sacrifices were inferior to the sacrifice of Christ. He begins this section by telling us that the old covenant law was only a “shadow”. His use of “law” here is a reference to the ceremonial law of the old covenant, the sacrificial law which dealt with the procedures for the old covenant sacrifice, which he refers to as a shadow of the new covenant sacrifice. The word shadow here is used to refer to something which has the resemblance of a reality, which can identify a reality, but which does not possess the power of the reality itself. A shadow of a dog can identify that it is a dog, but the shadow of a dog cannot bite anyone. The old covenant sacrifices reflected the reality of the new covenant sacrifice, they pointed to the reality of the new covenant sacrifice, but lacked its power. The writer then tells us how and why they lacked the power of the sacrifice of Christ. The first way in which they lack the power is given in verse one, that they must be “repeated endlessly year after year”. The fact that they had to be repeated over and over demonstrates the temporary nature of their effects, they were effective in what they did only for one year, whereas the sacrifice of Christ was once for all, it never needed to be repeated, for it was effective for all time. The writer then elaborates on the reasoning as to why the old sacrifices were inferior due to their temporary nature, telling us that these sacrifices could never “make perfect those who draw near to worship”. The word translated as “perfect” here is aorist active infinitive of teleioo. The translation of this Greek word as “perfect”, while technically correct, tends to confuse those who speak English, due to our normal understanding of the word perfect. When the word perfect is used, one generally thinks of it to mean “flawless, without fault or defect, one who never makes mistake”. This is not what the Greek word teleioo refers to, for it is used to refer to something which does what it is created to do. For instance, a hammer is created to drive nails, and a hammer which is teleioo is one which is being used to drive in nails. It may have a cracked handle and a chipped head, but if it is driving in nails, it is teleioo (perfect) because it is doing what it is created to do. It is in this way, then, that the writer begins to show us the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ. The sacrifices of the old covenant (the shadow) were able to cleanse the worshipper only temporarily and externally, while the sacrifice of Christ (the reality) is able to cleanse the worshipper internally and permanently. The “perfected” worshipper of the new covenant is not, then, made flawless, but is now enabled to do what he or she is created to do, which is to be the image and likeness of God. This was not fully possible for the worshipper under the old covenant, for the old covenant sacrifice was not able to cleanse the worshipper to the point in which the Holy Spirit could indwell them (more on this later in the chapter), and without the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, it is literally impossible for any person to be the image and likeness of God. It is only due to the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit that any human being is able to truly do what he or she is created to do, truly able to be the image and likeness of God, and it is only the sacrifice of Christ which makes this indwelling possible, which “makes perfect” the believer and enables them to do what they were created to do.