************ Sermon on Hebrews 10:15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 21, 2016
"The Testimony of Two"
In both the Old and New Testaments, how many witnesses are required to establish that evidence is reliable?
(Deut 17:6) On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. (Cf Num 35:30; Deut 19:15)So, when Jesus sent out the seventy-two, how did He send them? Didn't He send them in thirty-six groups of two (Lk 10)? Likewise, in Revelation 11 the testimony of the church is represented by the two witnesses.
(Heb 10:28) Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
(Mt 18:16) But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
(Jn 8:17) In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid.
(2 Cor 13:1) "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses."
In our sinful world, there is so much testimony we cannot accept and believe. It started already in the Garden with the lies of the serpent.
(Gen 3:1,4-5) Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" ... (4) "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. (5) "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."Satan is a liar and the enemy of God and His people. And he continues to be a liar today. He doesn't want you to be sure of your salvation. He doesn't want you to put your confidence in Christ and His finished work. He wants you to look to yourself, your religious devotion, your Christian service, the works of your hands for salvation. He wants you to look to other religions. He wants you to believe the false teaching of the Roman Catholics that Christ is not enough -- you need Christ, plus your works. He wants you to believe the Jehovah's Witness heresy that the Savior Jesus is not true God and true man.
Remember the lies of Satan that Hebrews particularly struggles against? Some of the Hebrew Christians believe Satan's lie that they can leave Jesus and go back to Moses. They believe they can leave the Gospel for the works of the law. They believe they can exchange the new covenant for the old covenant.
Today, the author of Hebrews wants his audience (including us) to know his testimony is real, reliable, trustworthy. So what does he do? He pretends he is in a courtroom and presents two witnesses to what he is saying about Jesus and His finished work. Look at our text: "The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this" (Heb 10:15). Note that word "also." We "also" have the testimony of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the second witness. Who, then, is the first witness? The first witness is Christ Himself.
I The Testimony of Christ
A The testimony of Jesus is presented as a series of contrasts.
The first contrast is the number of priests. Look at verse 11: "Day after day every priest ..." "Every priest." That is, many priests. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. All the high priests from Aaron, to Eleazar, to Eli, to Caiaphas. All the priests from Levi to Zechariah. So many of them throughout the years. So many of them at any one time. In fact, there were more priests than there was work. So a priest like Zechariah had a once in a lifetime opportunity to serve in the Holy Place where an angel met him and told him he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son. What happened to all of these priests? They all died and were replaced. Telling us what? Telling us they were sinners -- because only sinners die. Telling us they were not able to secure real forgiveness because sinners cannot pay for other sinners.
Contrasted to this is what is said in verse 12: "But when this priest ..." "This priest." That is, one priest. Hebrews is talking about our only High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember what we are told about this only high priest? He is a priest forever; five times in fact we are told this (Heb 5:6; 6:20; 7:3,17,21). We need no other high priest. We need no other priest. As the risen and ascended Lord, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them (Heb 7:25).
B The frequency of sacrifice is our second contrast. Look at verse 11:
(Heb 10:11) Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.Over and over again we have noticed the endless stream of blood. The Greek uses the present tense to describe the work of the priest: he stands, he performs, he offers. This emphasizes ongoing activity, continual activity, never-ending activity. Every morning sacrifices were presented. Every evening sacrifices were presented. In between, dozens of Jewish worshipers showed up with doves, lambs, goats, and bulls. So from sunrise to sunset the priests were kept busy offering these bloody sacrifices to the Lord. Every morning the priest would go to work in a clean, white tunic. Every night he came home with a blood-splattered tunic that his wife needed to soak in cold water overnight. On an on. Every day. Every week. Every year. Every decade. Every century. Yet, all these sacrifices "can never take away sins" (Heb 10:11).
Compare the frequency of these sacrifices to what was done by Jesus according to verse 12:
(Heb 10:12) But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.How many times was Jesus sacrificed? Once. Once for all time. Once for all. This is a very important phrase in the book of Hebrews. Once for all. Once for all time. Once for all people. Never to be repeated. More than sufficient for all the sins of all the sinners in all the history of the world. In this light consider what you see in Roman Catholic churches -- they have an altar to offer Jesus every single day; we have a Lord's Supper table because He was offered once for all. According to the Catechism, the Roman Catholics deny the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ.
C The bodily position of the priests is the third contrast. What is the bodily position of the old covenant priests? "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties ..." (Heb 10:11). He "stands." When the Old Testament speaks of God's servants, it often speaks of those who stand before the Lord. That's what the priests do: they stand before the Lord. So it does not surprise us that the sanctuary has no place to sit: no chair, no bench, no stool, no couch, no recliner, no rocker. Why are they always standing? Because you sit when your work is done. Because you sit and recline and rest at the end of a hard day of work. But their work is never done. Their sacrifices never reach the point where sins are taken away (Heb 10:11). They offer doves and lambs and goats and bulls but it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb 10:4).
In contrast to this is Jesus. See what we are told about Him in verse 12?
(Heb 10:12) But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.Did you catch that? "He sat down." "He sat down at the right hand of God." Not even the angels do this. Remember how the angel Gabriel introduces himself to Zechariah? "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God ..." (Lk 1:19). What a privilege it is to stand in God's presence as one of His servants. But to sit in God's presence and to sit at His right hand, that is to occupy the most important place in the entire universe. In that time and place, to sit at someone's right hand is to be their equal in terms of majesty and authority and power and glory. At His trial before the Sanhedrin Jesus told the high priest that He is the Son of Man Who someday would sit at the right hand of God. The high priest knew exactly what this meant. So he tore his clothes and said,
(Mt 26:65) "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy."He knew Jesus was claiming full equality with God. No other priest in Israel could make such a claim.
Jesus sat down. Why? Because unlike the priests of the Old Testament His work has been completed. His sacrifice has taken away sin. His blood has cleansed the conscience. By His one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The priests and high priests stand and offer the same sacrifices again and again. But Jesus sits. And does what? He waits.
(Heb 10:13) Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool,He waits in eager anticipation. He waits until the time appointed by God for Him to return. He waits for the time His enemies, the enemies of the cross, the enemies of the church, are defeated. The year AD 70 saw a foretaste of this when Jerusalem was conquered, the temple was leveled, and thousands were killed or enslaved.
This is the testimony of Jesus: He is the one priest Who offers the one sacrifice and then sits down.
II The Testimony of the Holy Spirit
A There is also a second witness that confirms the testimony of Hebrews. "The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this." The second witness is the Spirit.
We see two testimonies of the Spirit. The first testimony of the Spirit is the promise of the new covenant through a Spirit-inspired Jeremiah. We looked at this testimony in depth when we studied Hebrews 8. But this testimony is so important that Hebrews quotes Jeremiah again:
(Heb 10:16) "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."
To appreciate how totally radical and different this is, let me remind you of what happened in the old covenant. The Lord descended on Mount Sinai. There was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. The mountain was covered with smoke. The whole mountain trembled violently. The sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Remember the response of the people? The people trembled. The were scared, frightened, and stayed at a distance (cf Ex 19:16-19). Then God spoke His law and later inscribed it on the two tablets of stone.
A few days later, with the entire scary experience fresh in their mind, the people made a golden calf and said to one another, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt" (Ex 32:4). Notice, the thunder and lightning could not make them obedient. The thick cloud and smoke could not make them obedient. The shaking mountain could not make them obedient. The loud trumpet could not make them obedient. The promises of God and the threats of God could not make them obedient. Here we see the problem, the great weakness, of the law. Left to ourselves we lack the ability to obey the law. On our own we do not have the heart, soul, mind, and strength to obey God. We are unable and unwilling to keep the law.
So what is different with the new covenant? The law is now inscribed on our hearts and minds instead of on tablets of stone. The law is now impressed upon the center of our being instead of being external. The result? I am now wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for God. It is my delight to obey. I want to obey. I desire to be obedient. This means that under the new covenant, when a Christian does not want to obey God, something is seriously wrong with their faith and their relationship with God. Because those who are converted want what God wants and hate what God hates and desire to do His will.
That's the first testimony of the Spirit.
B There is also a second testimony of the Spirit. Look at verses 17-18:
(Heb 10:17-18) Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." (18) And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
There is a contrast here with what was said earlier in verse 3. Verse 3 tells us the sacrifice of bulls and goats is but a reminder of sins, of guilt, of punishment, of an unclean conscience. The old covenant sacrifices cause people to remember they are fallen. Notice what happens under the new covenant. Sins are no longer remembered. Instead, because of Christ's one sacrifice they are forgotten. Forgotten by God. "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." According to Micah, God treads our sins underfoot and hurls all our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). We have a saying, "Out of sight, out mind." That's what happens with God when it comes to our sins: out of sight, out of mind. In Christ, He buries our sins in the sea of His grace.
Think about your sins against God: the idols you chase, the other gods you worship, your failure to always use the holy name of God with reverence and awe, your failure to be faithful in worship. Think about your sins against your neighbor: your failure to honor those in authority over you, your failure to love your neighbor as yourself, your lusts and adulteries, your gossip and lies, your theft, your covetous desires. All of them buried. All of them gone from God's sight. All of them forgotten. Because, BECAUSE, all of them are forgiven in Christ. "Therefore," as Paul puts it in Romans 8, "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1).
This is why, my brothers and sisters, there is no longer any more sacrifice for sin. Sins have been forgiven once for all. Sins have been forgotten because of the one sacrifice of our holy high priest. His work has been completed.
This, then, is the second testimony of the Spirit. Our sins are forgotten and forgiven in Christ.
O Hebrew Christians, you have heard the testimony of the two witnesses. What Hebrews says is true and reliable and trustworthy and dependable. So why are you thinking of going back to Moses? Why are you thinking of leaving Jesus?
Dear friends, I can say something similar to you. What Hebrews says about Jesus as the only high priest with the once for all sacrifice is true and reliable and trustworthy and dependable. So why depend on yourself, your works, your religious devotions, your acts of charity? Nothing you do or say or bring can save your guilty soul. Jesus and Jesus alone is your Savior from sin.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page