************ Sermon on Hebrews 9:22 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on July 17, 2016

Hebrews 9:15-22
Hebrews 9:22
"The Only Means of Forgiveness"

This past week I came across the Congo Cookbook. Every kitchen needs this cookbook on its shelf. Here is one of the main recipes:
Pour fresh blood through a sieve to separate it from the clots.
Mix three parts liquid blood to one part milk (or equal parts blood and sour milk).
Cook over low heat, stirring often, for twenty to thirty minutes until the mixture thickens.
If desired, add butter, fried chopped onions, or salt during cooking.
Serve with Ugali, Fufu, boiled Plantains, or Rice.
This is a favorite recipe among the Masai people of Kenya.

We might dismiss this as the cultural practices of primitive peoples. In that case, let me remind you of traditional European dishes that also use blood. Have you ever heard of black pudding, boudin noir, and blutwurst? These all make use of blood.

We talk about blood in this church. Because blood is important to us. Vitally important. Blood lies at the center of our faith. Most so-called Seeker Churches never mention blood. Most of the mainstream, liberal churches never or rarely mention blood. But we mention it often because blood is a scarlet thread that we see throughout the Bible.

What did God command Israel to do before she left Egypt? They had to kill a Passover lamb and smear its blood on the doorposts of their houses. What happened when the people sinned? They had to present a sin offering -- which includes the shedding of blood -- to the Lord. What happened on the Day of Atonement? The blood of goats and bulls was sprinkled on the people, the priests, the altar, the mercy seat. The blood of the animal was shed for the sins of the sinner. One commentator suggests that until the coming of Jesus more than one million animals were killed -- which means thousands of gallons of blood. There was so much blood at the Passover in Jerusalem that a special drainage system was built to dispose of the blood in the Kidron Valley outside of the city.

Blood is important in the New Testament as well. All four gospels make clear that Jesus shed blood. In the book of Acts, the crucifixion -- and its shed blood -- was at the center of the apostles' preaching and teaching. Lamb is the favorite title for Jesus in the book of Revelation where it is used 31 times; He is the Lamb Who was slain; He is the Lamb Whose blood purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Last Sunday we celebrated the Lord's Supper. Remember what is said when we lift the cup: "Take, drink, remember and believe that the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was shed for the complete forgiveness of all our sins."

Our other sacrament, the sacrament of baptism, also points us to the importance of the blood. It reminds us and assures us that we are washed in the blood of Jesus. As the Catechism puts it:
To be washed with Christ's blood means that God, by grace, has forgiven my sins because of Christ's blood poured out for me in his sacrifice on the cross.

With various poets and song writers, we love to sing about the blood:
"There Is Power in the Blood"
"Are You Washed in the Blood?"
"The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power"
"There Is a Fountain"
"Nothing but the Blood"

The distinctive and defining characteristic of the true Christian faith is that God sent His Son as the Lamb Who shed His blood for us sinners. Telling us what? Showing us what? That God is offended and repulsed by sin. That sin needs to be dealt with. That you and I are sinners headed for hell unless we are saved by the blood.

Now, if you remember, Hebrews 9 contrasts and compares the old and new covenants. It contrasts and compares their sacrificial systems and their effectiveness. The old covenant, we discovered, dealt with externals and not with the heart; it dealt with sins done in ignorance; and the result, we said, was that the conscience of the sinner was not cleansed. All the sacrifices and ceremony of the old covenant, however, foreshadowed a time when the blood of Jesus cleanses our conscience and allows us access to God.

I The Blood of Jesus Qualifies Him as Mediator
A Our first point is that the blood of Jesus qualifies Him as Mediator. Look at the opening words of verse 15: "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant ..." For what reason? For the reason that is mentioned in verse 14: "the blood of Christ ... cleanses our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" "For this reason." Because of His blood, because He shed His blood, because He cleanses us with His blood, Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant.

B Notice for whom Christ is the Mediator: for "those who are called" (Heb 9:15). The called ones. They are further identified in verse 15 as those who "committed sins under the first covenant." So, who are these called people who committed sin under the first covenant? They are the people and nation of Israel. They are Jews who by the call of God have come to faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, they are the audience of Hebrews. Remember, Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who are thinking of leaving the faith. So, the author of Hebrews is saying to his audience, "Don't leave. You have a Redeemer -- Jesus, God's own Son. Precious Lamb of God, Messiah, Holy One."

C The author of Hebrews reminds his Jewish audience of two blessings of Christ's work as Mediator. First, because of Christ's blood the called ones who have come to faith in Christ will "receive the promised eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:15). What is this promised eternal inheritance? It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden with the promise of God that someday Satan will be crushed and destroyed. It continues with God's promise to Abraham to bless him, make his name great and be a blessing to all peoples on earth. We see the promise further explained in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 where we are told of a new covenant relationship between God and His people. The promise of the Spirit's coming in Joel 2 is part of the inheritance. So is Isaiah's promise of new heavens and a new earth. Knowing their Old Testaments, Hebrew's audience knew each and every one of these promises. All of these promises were brought about because Jesus shed His blood, because He went the way of the cross and the grave and ascended into heaven and now sits at God's right hand. The cross and its blood has brought to fulfilment God's wonderful promises.

There is also a second blessing. Because of Christ's blood, the called ones who have come to faith in Christ have been "set ... free from the sins committed under the first covenant" (Heb 9:15). Those Jewish Christians are like every other person on earth -- they are sinners. They are in bondage to sin. They are enslaved by darkness. Which is why Christ died as a ransom, which is why Christ shed His blood -- to set them free.

The old covenant established at Sinai, with its sacrifices and rules and regulations and the shed blood of animals, was not able to do any of this. It was not able to make the eternal inheritance a reality. It is was not able to cleanse and free the conscience. Only the blood of Jesus does this for the called ones who have come to faith in Christ.

Though Hebrews especially has Jewish Christians in mind, we know that all Christians are among the called. If you believe in Jesus, Jesus is also your Mediator. If you believe in Jesus, Jesus shed His blood for you. If you believe in Jesus, you also will receive the promised eternal inheritance. If you believe in Jesus, you also will be set free from your sin.

II The Covenant Requires the Blood of Jesus
Our second point is that the blood of Jesus is required for the covenant to be in effect.

Look at verses 16-18. But before I read it, let me direct you to the footnote at the bottom of our pew Bibles. It tells us that the word for "will" in verses 16 & 17 is actually the Greek word for "covenant." Covenant is a far better translation here so that is the word I will be using:
(Heb 9:16-18) In the case of a covenant, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, (17) because a covenant is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. (18) This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.
You might be saying, "Huh? What is going on here? What is Hebrews telling us?" Hebrews is telling us that covenants are put into effect only through the shedding of blood.

Let me describe the process. An animal was cut into two and the halves arranged opposite each other. The two parties to the covenant would walk together between the two halves and promise to keep the covenant; and, they declared that what happened to the animal would also happen to them if they did not keep the covenant. We see this covenant making process in Genesis 15. Let's turn there in our Bibles:
(Gen 15:9-12,17-18) So the LORD said to [Abram], "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." (10) Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. (11) Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. (12) As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him ... (17) When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. (18) On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram ...
The blazing torch was God.

If you are observant you might have noticed that Abraham did not walk between the pieces with God. Abraham, being a sinful human, could not keep the covenant. So God walked through the animal pieces alone. God walked alone because He alone is forever faithful to His covenant promises. It is God Who made the covenant. It is God Who made promises. It is God Who swore an oath.

Now, back to what Hebrews says: covenants are put into effect only through the shedding of blood. Whether it is the old covenant or the new covenant, blood needs to be shed for the covenant to be put into effect (cf vs 19-21). So Jesus' blood needed to be spilled for the new covenant to take effect.

We remember and celebrate this at the Lord's Supper. Remember the words that I quote every time we take the Lord's Supper:
(1 Cor 11:25) In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."

(Mt 26:27-28) Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. (28) This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus' blood needs to be shed, Jesus' blood needs to spilt, for the new covenant to take effect.

III The Blood of Jesus Alone Provides Forgiveness
A Our third point is that the blood of Jesus provides the only means of forgiveness. Look at our text in verse 22: "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22).

Is there any wiggle room here? Is there a place for any other religion? Can I save myself? Does my repentance save me? What about my prayers and sighs and tears? Does what I feel or do give me peace with God? No. No. No. Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul. Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.

The sentence of death is hanging over you, congregation. It is your duty to repent but your repentance does not remove the guilt of your sin or cleanse your conscience. It is your duty to reform your life but your reformation does not remove the guilt of your sin or cleanse your conscience. It is your duty to love God and neighbor but your love does not remove the guilt of your sin or cleanse your conscience. It is your duty to pray and go to worship but your religious devotion does not remove the guilt of your sin or cleanse your conscience. It is your duty to put to death the old man of sin and to put on the new self but this does not remove your guilt or cleanse your conscience.

B Let's turn the negative statement of our text into a positive. The negative statement: "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22). The positive statement: "with the shedding of blood there is forgiveness."

Do you hear what Hebrews is saying? You need blood. You need blood to have the forgiveness of sins. You need blood to cleanse your conscience. You need blood to have peace with God. You need blood to save your guilty soul. You need blood to make your spirit whole. You need blood to bear your awful load. You need blood to make your sin erase. Blood and only blood will do.

C We aren't talking about the blood of goats and calves. Don't forget, they don't do the job, they don't cleanse the conscience, they don't deal with the heart, they don't deal with sin done on purpose. We are talking about the blood of Jesus. You need the blood of Jesus. You need only the blood of Jesus.

Let's go back to baptism for a moment. Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly His blood and His Spirit wash away my soul's impurity, in other words, all my sins.
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make we whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

O precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
The most important thing I can say to you, dear friends, is plunge yourself into this fountain. Plunge yourself into the fount and you will find forgiveness.
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