Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. This week I take a look at the ninth chapter of Hebrews as it explains the new covenant’s sacrifice. Of course that sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Everything the Old Testament required for redemption and restoration is fulfilled in the New Testament with Christ. In the Old Agreement the high priest went into the tabernacle and the Holy Place to sprinkle blood for the redemption of the people. In the New Testament Jesus symbolically goes into the Holy of Holies with his own blood. In the Old Testament the high priest had to continually offer sacrifices for the people. In the New Covenant, Jesus needs only go in once and it is for all humanity and for all eternity. Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:
New Covenant / Agreement
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The focus of this week is the new covenant’s sacrifice. Of course that sacrifice is Jesus Christ. With that in mind I’ll provide some background on the book of Hebrews, a bit of background on the chapter preceding this weeks study, and then narrow the focus to this week’s study which is the ninth chapter of Hebrews.
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that the book of Hebrews “is not really a letter, and certainly not written by Paul. It does not begin like a letter, and in fact, is more of a sermon/treatise”.
Hebrews is likely written about 65 Common Era. Scholars date its composition before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE). “It is extremely difficult to believe the author would not mention the destruction of the Temple if it had already occurred, since that would have been the validation of his entire argument concerning the outmoded character of the Old Testament sacrificial system” (NISB). “One of the main emphases in Hebrews is the superiority of the new covenant to the old and its regimen of animal sacrifices” (NISB).
The eighth chapter of Hebrews deals with the true high priest (Jesus) and the two covenants (old and new). It naturally, takes a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament book of Jerimiah 31:31-34. This is the longest quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament (Townsend Commentary).
The ninth chapter deals with the sacrifices of the Old Testament in verses 1-10. This was the first covenant. It describes some of the protocol for priests entering into the Old Covenant tabernacle to atone for the sins of the people and to offer gifts. Verses 11-22 of our study will contrast Jesus Christ with the Old Covenant as the one and only High Priest that fulfills the new covenant. These verses deal with the “definitive nature of Christ’s work” (NISB).
Some important words to consider from this text include:
New Covenant / Agreement
Review Of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week Mark 15:6 reminded us that it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner during the Passover feast. Barabbas was in prison with people who had committed murder during the insurrection. So Barabbas was charged with murder whereas Jesus was charged with insurrection. Yet the crowd cried out to release Barabbas instead of Jesus.
I also noted that “the Jewish council had the power to put offenders they condemned to death”. If the Jewish high council wanted to put Jesus to death themselves they could have done so. But remember that only a few days ago a great crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest. Perhaps the crowd was the same; perhaps it was a different crowd. But the high priests didn’t want to order the death of Jesus so they turned Jesus over to the Roman government.
I also noted the importance of the distinction between who was responsible for the murder of Jesus. Ultimately, it was the Roman government that crucified Jesus not the Jewish council leaders. That’s important because across the centuries people have used the crucifixion of Jesus to provoke anti-Jewish feelings in those who blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion. While it’s true the Jewish council turned Jesus over to Roman authorities, it cannot be said that the Jews crucified Jesus.
I also noted in verse 25 that the third hour was nine o’clock in the morning. It was 9AM when they crucified him. Verse 26 was the charge against him. He was charged with being king in Caesar’s place.
Verses 33 through 39 spoke to the death of Jesus. The sixth hour was 12 o’clock noon. The ninth hour was 3PM. It was at 3PM when Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”.
In verse 37 Jesus breathed his last breath. In verse 38 the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This tearing of the curtain was significant. It symbolizes the new direct access to God through Jesus Christ. Now the high priest no longer needs to enter into the holiest of holies on our behalf. Now we have direct access through this New Covenant with Jesus Christ.
Verse 39 closed the lesson with the centurion proclaiming “Truly this man was God’s Son”! It was the Roman centurion that proclaimed Jesus as God’s son.
This week’s lesson continues with the theme of a fulfilled new covenant through Jesus Christ. We have returned to the book of Hebrews as Hebrews references the Old Testament extensively to prove the point that Jesus fulfills the new covenant. It is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the grace of God that we now have a new covenant with God. This would not be possible without the new covenant’s sacrifice. That sacrifice is Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentary all title this week’s lesson The New Covenant’s Sacrifice. The scripture text comes from Hebrews 9:11-22.
What Takes Place in This Passage:
Verse eleven describes Christ as a High Priest of the good things that have come. These good things are the salvation, restoration, and redemption provided through Jesus Christ. We have these good things now because of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross.
Verse twelve describes Jesus as entering once into the Holy Place. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that “this place is ideal and not an actual place, but pointing to the ultimate reality of Christ’s atoning work”. In other words, Jesus symbolically entered into the Holy Place. This Holy Place is what we have to look forward to. It is what will ultimately become our reality. Note also that Jesus did not enter with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood.
Verses thirteen and fourteen explain that the blood of goats and calves and ashes only sanctifies the outward flesh. It is Christ’s blood that purifies the conscience or inner person from the dead works of the Old Testament animal sacrifice system.
Verse fifteen explains that because Jesus replaces this old covenant, he is the mediator of the new covenant so that we may receive the promised eternal inheritance. This is possible because his death redeems believers from transgressions under the old covenant.
In verses sixteen and seventeen we see terminology dealing with the ideas of wills, testaments, and covenants. The Greek word for covenant is interchangeable with testament. It is the same term for which we get the phrase “last will and testament”. The author makes a play on this term to highlight the double meaning of covenant and testament.
In verse eighteen the author makes his point from the previous verses; “not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood”. The author is trying to help us understand the importance of Christ’s shed blood. A sacrifice had to be made for the new covenant to become effective. But a sacrifice of goats and calves would never be sufficient. It had to be the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Verses nineteen through twenty-two deal again with how the Old Testament required blood. In verse nineteen the author reminds us of Moses sprinkling blood on the scroll and the people saying “This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you”. The remaining verses describe the other things Moses sprinkled blood on and closes by proclaiming “under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”.
The new covenant’s sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. This was a gracious way for God to deal with our sin. It was a once and for all eternity sacrifice that held the key for humanity’s salvation, restoration, and redemption back to God. One of the central points the author of Hebrews makes is the importance of the shedding of blood. It was required in the Old Testament. Hebrews makes the point that Jesus fulfills that requirement with his own blood in the new covenant. The blood of Christ is defined by Westminster’s Theological Dictionary as a theological symbol of his atoning death effecting a new covenant, reconciliation, and salvation. It is the central point Hebrews makes in our lesson.
Key Characters in the text:
Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity. He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Tabernacle – The portable tent in which the Hebrews worshiped during the wilderness period of wandering. The Jerusalem Temple replaced it. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the “tabernacle” is the boxlike receptacle for the Eucharistic elements.
Mediator – One who stands between parties in order to effect reconciliation. The term is applies to Jesus Christ as the “one mediator between God and humankind” in I Timothy 2:5, who has effected reconciliation by overcoming sin.
Sacrifice – Something of value offered as an act of worship or devotion to God. Sacrifices were offered throughout the Old Testament, accompanied covenant making, and were of various types.
Redemption – A financial metaphor that literally means “buying back”. Used theologically to indicate atonement, reconciliation, or salvation wherein liberation from forms of bondage such as sin, death, law, or evil takes place through Christ.
Covenant – A formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted. Many biblical covenants are found, some providing only divine promises while others entail obligations.
Testament – A person’s last will to dispose of property. Also, a covenant – as at Sinai. Both senses are found in Gal 3:15-18. The term is also used for the division of the Bible into Old and New Testaments (covenants).
Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:
1. The only acceptable sacrifice (Jesus Christ).
2. The Old Covenant and the New You.
1. We are no longer under the Old Testament system of animal sacrifices. What sacrifice do we need for salvation today?
2. The Old Testament tabernacle was destroyed. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Is there a temple or tabernacle for Christians today? (See verse 11)
This week’s study of Hebrews compared and contrasted the Old Testament or Old Agreement with the New Testament or New Agreement. What was needed to remit sins in the Old Testament is fulfilled once and for all in the new agreement or the new covenant with Jesus Christ. The Old Testament required the shedding blood. That requirement in the New Testament is fulfilled in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week we move to the book of Colossians. As we understand the fulfilled covenant in Jesus Christ we will discuss the fullness of Jesus Christ in the Godhead and how to avoid false teaching. Colossians will show us the importance of Heart’s united in love.