It is very often stated in the New Testament that our justification and salvation is through the blood of Jesus (e.g. 1 John 1:7; Rev. 5:9; 12:11; Rom. 5:9). To appreciate the significance of
Christ's blood, we must understand that it is a Biblical principle that "the life of all flesh is the blood thereof" (Lev. 17:14). Without blood a body cannot live; it is therefore symbolic of life. This explains the aptness of Christ's words, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53).
Sin results in death (Rom. 6:23),i.e. a pouring out of the blood, which carries the life. For this reason the Israelites were expected to pour out blood each time they sinned, to remind them that sin resulted in death. "Almost all things are by the law (of Moses) purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission" (of sins - Heb. 9:22) . Because of this, Adam and Eve's covering of themselves with fig leaves was unacceptable; instead, God killed a lamb to provide skins to cover their sin (Gen. 3:7,21). Similarly, Abel's sacrifice of animals was accepted rather than Cain's offering of vegetables, because he appreciated this principle that without shedding blood there could be no forgiveness and acceptable approach to God (Gen. 4:3-5).
These incidents point forward to the supreme importance of the blood of Christ. This was especially foreshadowed in the events of the Passover, at which God's people had to place the blood of a lamb on their doorposts to gain salvation from death. This blood pointed forward to that of Jesus, with which we must cover ourselves. Before the time of Christ the Jews had to offer animal sacrifices for their sins, according to God's law through Moses. However, this shedding of animal blood was only for teaching purposes. Sin is punishable by death (Rom. 6:23); it was not possible that a human being could kill an animal as a substitute for his own death or as a true representative of himself. The animal he offered had no appreciation of right or wrong; it was not fully representative of him: "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:4).
The question therefore arises, Why did the Jews have to sacrifice animals when they sinned? Paul sums up the various answers to this question in Gal. 3:24: "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." The animals which they killed as offerings for sin had to be spotless - without blemish (Ex. 12:5; Lev. 1:3,10 etc.). These pointed forward to Christ, "a lamb without blemish" (1 Peter 1:19). The blood of those animals therefore represented that of Christ. They were accepted as sacrifices for sin insofar as they pointed forward to Christ's perfect sacrifice, which God knew he would make. On account of this, God was able to forgive the sins of His people who lived before the time of Christ. His death was "for the redemption of the transgressions that were (committed) under the first testament" (Heb. 9:15), i.e. the law of Moses (Heb. 8:5-9). All the sacrifices offered under the law pointed forward to Christ, the perfect sin offering, who "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26; 13:11,12; Rom. 8:3 [N.I.V.] cp. 2 Cor. 5:21).
We explained in Section 7.3 how the whole of the Old Testament, particularly the Law of Moses, pointed forward to Christ. Under that Law the way of approach to God was through the High Priest; he was the mediator between God and men under the Old Covenant as Christ is under the New Covenant (Heb. 9:15) . "The law (makes) men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath...maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore" (Heb. 7:28). Because they themselves were sinners, these men were not in a position to gain true forgiveness for men. The animals which they sacrificed for sin were not truly representative of the sinners. What was required was a perfect human being, who was in every way representative of sinful man, who would make an acceptable sacrifice for sin which men could benefit from by associating themselves with that sacrifice. In a similar way, a perfect High Priest was required who could sympathize with the sinful men for whom he mediated , having been tempted just like them (Heb. 2:1418).
Jesus fits this requirement perfectly - "Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled" (Heb. 7:26). He does not need to continually sacrifice for his own sins, nor is he liable to death any more (Heb. 7:23,27) In the light of this, the Scripture comments upon Christ as our priest: "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). Because he had human nature, Christ, as our ideal High Priest, "can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also (was) compassed with infirmity" (Heb. 5:2) . This recalls the statement regarding Christ, "he also himself likewise" partook of our human nature (Heb. 2:14).
As the Jewish high priests only mediated for God's people, Israel, so Christ is only a Priest for spiritual Israel - those who have been baptized into Christ, having understood the true Gospel. He is "an high priest over the house of God" (Heb. 10:21), which is comprised of those who have been born again by baptism (1 Peter 2:2-5), having the true hope of the Gospel (Heb. 3:6). Appreciating the marvellous benefits of Christ's priesthood should therefore encourage us to be baptized into him; without this, he cannot mediate for us.
Having been baptized into Christ, we should eagerly make full use of Christ's priesthood; indeed, we have certain responsibilities with regard to this which we must live up to. "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually" (Heb. 13:15). God's plan of providing Christ as our priest was in order that we should glorify Him; we should therefore make constant use of our access to God through Christ in order to praise Him. Heb. 10:21-25 lists a number of responsibilities which we have on account of Christ being our High Priest: "Having an high priest over the house of God:
1. Let us draw near (to God) with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water". Understanding Christ's priesthood means that we should be baptized into him ("our bodies washed"), and we should never let a bad conscience develop in our minds. If we believe in Christ's atonement, we are made at one with God ('AT-ONE-MENT') by his sacrifice.
2. "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering". We should not deviate from the true doctrines which have brought about our understanding of Christ's priesthood.
3. "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love...not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together". We should be lovingly bound together with others who understand and benefit from Christ's priesthood; this is particularly through assembling together for the communion service, by which we remember Christ's sacrifice (see Section 11.3.5).
Appreciating these things should fill us with humble confidence that we really will reach salvation, if we are baptized and abide in Christ: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
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