There is no more fundamental problem for us as human beings than how we deal with our sin before a holy God. Sin is wrong-doing and law-breaking. A holy and just God cannot look the other way and let crimes go unpunished. They must be dealt with. That puts you and I in quite the predicament. Sin creates guilt before God, guilt and shame we sometimes feel strongly. It incurs death. It separates us from God. It corrupts and makes us feel unclean. Our biggest problem in life is a sin-problem. So how do we deal with that? How do we get a clean slate? How do fix what’s broken? That’s the deep human question and it’s behind so much of every religion’s quest to make right or atone for sin.
Hebrews 9:11-28 answers how sin is dealt with, fully and forever. It points us to a perfect high priest who only needs to make one sacrifice, who is also the perfect sacrifice. He is the spotless lamb and the great high priest in one. As the sinless son of God, he can atone for sin by shedding his blood in our place. He can repair or restore the relationship between us and God. He can cleanse us, and not just on the outside, but to the deepest part of who we are. He can make us new.
As Christians, we sing about and celebrate the cross because it (with the empty-tomb and the entire life and ministry of Jesus) is where our sin problem is answered with God’s own gracious solution. Though we can never fix or remedy the guilt we carry before a just and holy God, God can. And God did, by sending Jesus to give his life for ours. Hebrews 9 teaches us how to live with a clean conscience and enjoy the fullness of freedom that comes from being washed by the blood of the lamb.
Study, Reflection, and Discussion Questions
- Read Heb. 9:11-28 and identify at least five ways Jesus is contrasted to the OT sacrificial system and demonstrated as superior.
- How does the work of Jesus on our behalf, including his sacrifice, motivate us to move from (dead works to serve the living God” (9:14)?
- Why is the shedding of blood such an important aspect to justice, cleansing, forgiveness, and redemption? Should we move past this language in our day and age? Why or why not?
- Why do you think the author emphasizes in 9:25-28 and 10:12-13 that Jesus only needed to die once?
- How should the return of Christ (9:28) encourage us as we wait for him? Why should it motivate us to draw near, cling to him, and endure in faith?
- In 9:24-28, identify at least one aspect for Christ’s past work, present work, and future work. Why is it important to keep all of these in mind and live accordingly?
For Further Study
- Cleansed: 1 John 1:9-2:2; Titus 2:14; John 15:3; Eph. 5:26; 1 Cor. 6:11; Ps. 51:2, 7; Heb. 1:3; 9:14; 10:22.
- Sanctified: Heb. 2:11; 10:10-14; 13:12; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Rom. 6:2-4.
- “Why Good Friday is Good News” by Dustin Crowe at indycrowe.com; The Bible Project video on sacrifice and atonement.
- God’s Suffering Servant: Is. 41:8; 42:1; 43:10; 52:13; 53:11; Ezek. 34:23-24; Acts 3:26; Phi. 2:7.
Encouragement & Accountability
Ideas for Response
- Confess your sin and cling to your Savior. If there is any undealt with sin in your life, this passage should motivate us to confess and repent of (turn from) it, knowing we can be forgiven and washed. Spend time in confession for any sins you haven’t brought to God, and then meditate on the promises you’re forgiven, freed, washed, and loved.
- Run to the cross. If you struggle with shame or guilt for your past, if you lack assurance of salvation, if you’re prone to relate to God based on your performance or works rather than his grace, or if temptation pushes you away from God rather than toward him, meditate on the sufficiency and finality of Jesus’ redemption to provide and full and eternal forgiveness and reconciliation.