The book of Hebrews is a wonderful statement about the inability of the Mosaic law to save and the perfection that the higher law of the gospel Jesus Christ brought. In this book we also learn that it is only because of the Melchizedek priesthood Jesus Christ restored that he was able to offer salvation to those who exercise faith in Him. He truly was the author and finisher of our faith.
Reading Assignment: Hebrews
Additional reading: Hebrews 6; 12–13; Bible Dictionary, “Pauline Epistles: Epistle to the Hebrews,” 746–47.
We don’t have to know all the ins and outs of the Mosaic law in order to find its flaws, not in terms of a law, but in its ability to save the people who lived it. The Law of Moses was not designed to bring salvation to the people. The purpose of the Mosaic law was to prepare them for the day the Messiah would come and give them a higher law that would offer salvation.
When Moses first went up on Mt. Sinai to receive the law from the Lord, he was given the fullness of the gospel. But while the Lord was explaining the gospel to Moses the people down below had given up on Moses as dead because he had been gone so long. They reverted back to their idol worshiping background and got Aaron to build them a golden calf. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw what the people had done he smashed the stone tablets the Lord had given him and had to go back up the mountain for something not as strenuous on the people’s faith. He came down with the 10 commandments and a law of performances to keep them in remembrance of the Lord, their God.
By the time Jesus was born the Jews were pretty much all that was left of the house of Israel, everyone else having been taken into captivity and scattered. They were no longer teaching the law of Moses, but were focusing instead on the writings of the elders and scholars of the law. So even the Jews had pretty much abandoned the real Law of Moses. They no longer knew why it had even been given. This is where the apostles come in.
As the Church spread and grew, especially among the gentiles, those who were Jews who had converted kept trying to get the gentiles to practice the Law of Moses. They believed that practicing the Law of Moses was essential to salvation. Over and over again the apostles had to try to explain to them the difference in the power of the two laws. The law of the gospel of Christ could save and exalt them, but the Mosaic law could not. One of the best explanations of this concept is found in Hebrews. Here is Hebrews 10:1 – 4.
1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come,and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Verse 1: The Law, meaning the Mosaic law, is only a shadow of the gospel of Christ, the “good things to come.” The sacrifices of the Mosaic law which are made year after year cannot bring a person to perfection.
Verse 2: If the Law’s sacrifices cleared a man’s conscience of wrong doing then the sacrifices would have ceased to be offered, because the people would have had no guilt before the law.
Verse 3: But people DID have to redo the sacrifices for forgiveness of sins, because they were still guilty from year to year.
Verse 4: And why is this? Because you can’t forgive a sin with the blood of bulls and goats. They simply cannot take away sins.
We don’t know for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews, but it is assumed by most people that Paul wrote it. Whomever the author is, he goes on to explain that even the high priest who went into the Holy of holies each year had to be forgiven for his own sins before he could pass through the veil to enter the room. Yet Christ, who was always without sin, passed through the real veil and into heaven to plead our case for us directly with God.
In Hebrews 9 a beautiful description of the performances of the Law of Moses is made regarding the yearly ritual the High Priest performed to forgive the sins of the people for that year and to enter into the most holy place, the inner chamber of the temple, the place we refer to as the Holy of holies. After 23 verses of explanation of how it all worked and what the purpose of everything was, the author says this:
24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
To recap: The temple was made with hands and the priest could enter the holiest place only once a year, but Christ entered the most holy place of all, he went through the veil into the presence of God. He did that for us. He offered not the blood of bulls and goats, but his own blood for our sins. The priests had to offer up the blood of animals every year, but Jesus needed to offer himself only once to permanently pay for our sins. What a beautiful image these verses paint.
The universal nature of faith
The need for exercising faith in Christ is not something new with the law of the gospel brought by Christ. All the ancient prophets exercised their faith in Jesus Christ to get the miracles and promises from God that they are so well known for now. Enoch was translated because of his faith in Christ. Abraham received the blessings of the covenant named after him because of his faith in Christ. When he went to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, he fully believed that if need be God would raise his son from the dead in order to fulfill His promise that through his son Isaac Abraham would receive his promised posterity. Now that is faith! (Hebrews 11:18 – 19)
The beauty of Hebrews is that we learn that faith in Christ is and always has been a prerequisite to blessings from on high. Our salvation hinges on our faith in Christ. Our forgiveness for our sins is based on our faith in Christ. Faith in Christ as our Redeemer is the moving force behind the law of the gospel. Jesus Christ truly is the author and finisher of our faith. Through His atoning sacrifice we have the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins, our guilt swept away, and we can be granted a place at His side through the eternities.