Series on Hebrews, VI Superior Piety, B Superior Portion Text:13:7-17, Part II, Christ Crucified Our Altar


We are looking today in Part II at verses 9-16. We treasure Reformation heritage of salvation by Grace through Faith. Yet many do not enjoy the freedom and blessing of the grace of God. I remember seeing the TV show Tool Time in which one of the boys, Randy, didn’t want to go to church. Tim ,the Tool man, Taylor caricatured the attitude of many church attendees when he said you get points for going to church, points for staying awake during the sermon, and an extra bonus if you understand what the preacher is saying.  The message was deceptive, but the parody was accurate. Conversely many Christians erroneously believe that salvation by grace through faith is a formula for an easy believism, and this results in sinful disregard for the law of God. The Lord’s table should bring about a proper understanding of Salvation by grace through faith. The author of Hebrews has constantly maintained that God saves his people by grace through faith. Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. In the words of Isaiah 12:2, Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song, he has become my salvation. In our text, in verse 10, the author says “We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.” That altar is Christ crucified for our sins. Paul says in I Corinthians 2:2, I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This is not just the heart of the Gospel, In this the gospel is comprehended so perfectly that anything added can only pervert it. As we come today I urge you to consider the Grace of God. It alone brings salvation, strength and sacrifice.

I Salvation

Verses 11 and 12 describe an event which occurred only on the annual day of atonement. The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood.  The priests who served in the tabernacle ordinarily ate the sin offerings. On this one day that prefigured the sacrifice of Christ more than any other, not even the high priest who was closest to God, could partake of the goat that was offered for the sins of the people. The remains were burned outside the camp. Jesus died outside the city gate of Jerusalem to fulfill this symbol or type. Like the goat he was accursed. But says the author of Hebrews, in spite of this, we can eat the sacrifice that they could not. The reason is plain. When Jesus was accursed for us, the sin did not consume him, he consumed the sin. As was prophesied in Daniel 9 He finished transgression, put an end to sin, atoned for wickedness and brought in everlasting righteousness. Curiously this was symbolized in another event on the day of atonement On that day the high priest not only sacrificed a bull for his owns sins and a goat for those of the people, but he also laid hands on a live goat, confessed over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites, all their sins, and sent the goat into the desert in the care of an appointed man. And Leviticus 16:22 says, The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place, and the man shall release it in the desert. This goat was called the scapegoat because he took the blame. Both goats picture our savior. He was not only accursed for our sins, but he rose again and carried them away. Consequently we have an altar from which those who minister in the tabernacle have no right to eat. The point is that what Jesus did was to take away sin. This is the grace of God which brings salvation. These Hebrew Christians needed to understand that they could add absolutely nothing to His provision, and that Christ crucified was all their hope. This the first step in following in faith.

II Strength

The second step is to be strengthened by grace according to verse 9, Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. The false teachings the writer has in mind are foreign to the gospel. The Jewish religion abounded in feasts. What to eat, what not to eat, when and how to eat it, were a major part of their religious practice. But none of these practices could strengthen them. In spite of their dutiful observance of the regulations the people would be left weak and powerless unless the grace of God was in their hearts. The Lord’s supper is the place provided for us to be strengthened by grace. But how does it work??? Some time ago Mark Kyle wrote an article in “Network,” the magazine of Mission To The World. He talked about disappointment leading to self-criticism, depression, or anger in missionaries. But frustration of our expectations is part of living. People sitting here are disappointed in marriage, frustrated in their relationship with their children, betrayed by friends, unappreciated in their work, persecuted in their jobs, and discontented with their progress in life. The human heart is a constant battlefield between expectation and disappointment. Mark Kyle suggested that the way many people react is like his seven month old son who expected to be fed upon demand, and if not, cried until he was. What is the answer? Obviously he said it is placing all of our hopes, plans and expectations in God alone. It sounds so easy to understand, so straightforward, so simple But the problem is that it is impossible! You will never do it. No one can do it. And then he said, and this is what impressed me and I hope it impresses you, “In fact, the only human reaction we can be certain of is our need to repent. When Job was finally faced with God’s reality he said, ‘Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’ ” The Lord’s table is the place of repentance for our attitude in all the frustrations of life and therefore it is the place of being strengthened by grace. This is where you find out what grace really is and in that strength you go on! Repentance is the key to being strengthened in grace. And the Lord’s Supper is not “ceremonial food.” It is the visible sign which, when we partake in repentance and faith, becomes a channel for the operation of God’s Word and Spirit.

III Sacrifice

The third step is sharing that grace through sacrifice. We see this in verses 13-16, Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. You cannot come and believe and understand, and then do nothing. The first response should be the sacrifice of continual praise to God. Life becomes an unending song of praise. Your frustration and failure is no longer important. Even that has been taken to the cross and the tomb by Christ. You stand accepted in the beloved. This is all that matters. The second part of the response is to communicate this to others. Remember the Tool time show in which Randy did not want to go to church? The end result in the show, was the conclusion that since he was a good boy helping others it was OK. In other words instead of earning Brownie points by going to church and staying awake and understanding the sermon, you earn them by helping others. It would be difficult to develop a worse misrepresentation or a better falsification of Christianity. You should end up helping others because you understand grace. In other words you know what it means to be forgiven even for your frustration and discontent. You know that the grace of God has forgiven even your self-criticism, your depression, and your anxiety. And you have confessed your helplessness. In this joy and strength you rise to bless others. This is salvation by grace through faith. Are others around you being blessed?? If not perhaps the reason is that you have not fully repented and experienced the grace of God as he meant you to have it. This is your opportunity today at the table.