Hebrews 10:1-25

The following passage is taken from Warren Wiesbe’s Bible Exposition Commentary:


The tenth chapter of Hebrews emphasizes the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in contrast with the imperfect sacrifices that were offered under the Old Covenant. Our Lord’s superior priesthood belongs to a better order—Melchizedek’s and not Aaron’s. It functions on the basis of a better covenant—the New Covenant—and in a better sanctuary, in heaven. But all of this depends on the better sacrifice, which is the theme of this chapter.

The writer presented three benefits that explain why the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is superior to the Old Covenant sacrifices.


Christ’s Sacrifice Takes Away Sin (Heb. 10:1–10)

Sin, of course, is man’s greatest problem. No matter what kind of religion a man has, if it cannot deal with sin, it is of no value. By nature, man is a sinner; and by choice, he proves that his nature is sinful. It has well been said, “We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.”

The need for a better sacrifice (vv. 1–4). Why were the Old Covenant sacrifices inferior? After all, they were ordained by the Lord; and they were in force for hundreds of years. While it is true that at times the Jewish people permitted these sacrifices to become empty rituals (Isa. 1:11–15), it is also true that many sincere people brought their offerings to God and were blessed.

The very nature of the Old Covenant sacrifices made them inferior. The Law was only “a shadow of good things to come” and not the reality itself. The sacrificial system was a type or picture of the work our Lord would accomplish on the cross. This meant that the system was temporary, and therefore could accomplish nothing permanent. The very repetition of the sacrifices day after day, and the Day of Atonement year after year, pointed out the entire system’s weakness.

Animal sacrifices could never completely deal with human guilt. God did promise forgiveness to believing worshipers (Lev. 4:20, 26, 31, 35), but this was a judicial forgiveness and not the removal of guilt from people’s hearts. People lacked that inward witness of full and final forgiveness. They could not claim, “I have no more consciousness of sins.” If those worshipers had been “once purged [from guilt of sin]” they would never again have had to offer another sacrifice.

So the annual Day of Atonement did not accomplish “remission of sin” but only “reminder of sin.” The annual repetition of the ceremony was evidence that the previous year’s sacrifices had not done the job. True, the nation’s sins were covered; but they were not cleansed. Nor did the people have God’s inward witness of forgiveness and acceptance.

Yes, there was a desperate need for a better sacrifice because the blood of bulls and of goats could not take away sins. It could cover sin and postpone judgment; but it could never effect a once-and-for-all redemption. Only the better sacrifice of the Son of God could do that.

The provision of the better sacrifice (vv. 5–9). It was God who provided the sacrifice and not man. The quotation is from Psalm 40:6–8, and it is applied to Jesus Christ in His incarnation (“when He cometh into the world”). The quotation makes it clear that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant sacrifices.

The word sacrifice refers to any of the animal sacrifices. Offering covers the meal offerings and the drink offerings. The burnt offering and sin offering are mentioned (Heb. 10:5, 8). The trespass offering would be covered in the word sacrifice (Heb. 10:5). Each of these offerings typified the sacrifice of Christ and revealed some aspect of His work on the cross (see Lev. 1–7).

The phrase, “a body hast Thou prepared Me” (Heb. 10:5), is not found in the original quotation. Psalm 40:6 reads, “Mine ears hast Thou opened.” The writer of Hebrews was quoting from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. How do we explain this variation? Some connect “Mine ears hast Thou opened” with Exodus 21:1–6, a passage that describes the actions of a master whose servant did not want to be set free. The master bored a hole through the ear lobe of the servant, which was a sign that the servant preferred to remain with his master. The idea is that our Lord was like a willing servant who had His ears bored.

The problem with that explanation is that only one ear was bored, while the verse (Ps. 40:6) speaks of both ears. Furthermore, the verb used in Exodus 21 means “to pierce,” while the verb in Psalm 40:6 means “to dig.” Our Lord was a servant, but it is not likely that the writer had this in mind. Probably “opened ears” signified a readiness to hear and obey the will of God (see Isa. 50:4–6). God gave His Son a prepared body that the Son might serve God and fulfill His will on earth. Our Lord often referred to this truth (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 17:4).

Of course, the same Holy Spirit who inspired Psalm 40 has the right to amplify and interpret His Word in Hebrews 10. “Opened ears” indicates a body ready for service.

Twice in this paragraph, the writer stated that God “had no pleasure” in the Old Covenant sacrifices (see Heb. 10:6, 8). This does not suggest that the old sacrifices were wrong, or that sincere worshipers received no benefit from obeying God’s Law. It only means that God had no delight in sacrifices as such, apart from the obedient hearts of the worshipers. No amount of sacrifices could substitute for obedience (1 Sam. 15:22, Ps. 51:16–17; Isa. 1:11, 19; Jer. 6:19–20; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:20–21).

Jesus came to do the Father’s will. This will is the New Covenant that has replaced the Old Covenant. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has taken away the first covenant and established the second. The readers of this epistle called Hebrews would get the message: why go back to a covenant that has been taken away? Why go back to sacrifices that are inferior?

The effectiveness of the better sacrifice (v. 10). Believers have been set apart (“sanctified”) by the offering of Christ’s body once for all. No Old Covenant sacrifice could do that. An Old Covenant worshiper had to be purified from ceremonial defilement repeatedly. But a New Covenant saint is set apart finally and completely.

Christ’s Sacrifice Need Not Be Repeated (Heb. 10:11–18)

Again the writer contrasted the Old Covenant high priest with Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest. The fact that Jesus sat down after He ascended to the Father is proof that His work was completed (Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1). The ministry of the priests in the tabernacle and temple was never done and never different: they offered the same sacrifices day after day. This constant repetition was proof that their sacrifices did not take away sins. What tens of thousands of animal sacrifices could not accomplish, Jesus accomplished with one sacrifice forever!

The phrase “sat down” refers us again to Psalm 110:1: “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” Christ is in the place of exaltation and victory. When He returns, He shall overcome every enemy and establish His righteous kingdom. Those who have trusted Him need not fear, for they have been “perfected forever” (Heb. 10:14). Believers are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). We have a perfect standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus Christ.

How do we know personally that we have this perfect standing before God? Because of the witness of the Holy Spirit through the Word (Heb. 10:15–18). The witness of the Spirit is based on the work of the Son and is given through the words of Scripture. The writer (Heb. 10:16–17) quoted Jeremiah 31:33–34, part of a passage he’d also quoted in Hebrews 8:7–12. The Old Covenant worshiper could not say that he had “no more consciousness of sins” (Heb. 10:2). But the New Covenant believer can say that his sins and iniquities are remembered no more. There is “no more offering for sin” (Heb. 10:18) and no more remembrance of sin!

I once shared a conference with a fine Christian psychiatrist whose lectures were very true to the Word. “The trouble with psychiatry,” he told me, “is that it can only deal with symptoms. A psychiatrist can remove a patient’s feelings of guilt, but he cannot remove the guilt. It’s like a trucker loosening a fender on his truck so he won’t hear the motor knock. A patient can end up feeling better, but have two problems instead of one!”

When a sinner trusts Christ, his sins are all forgiven, the guilt is gone, and the matter is completely settled forever.

Christ’s Sacrifice Opens the Way to God (Heb. 10:19–39)

No Old Covenant worshiper would have been bold enough to try to enter the holy of holies in the tabernacle. Even the high priest entered the holy of holies only once a year. The thick veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies was a barrier between people and God. Only the death of Christ could tear that veil (Mark 15:38) and open the way into the heavenly sanctuary where God dwells.

A gracious invitation (vv. 19–25). “Let us draw near … Let us hold fast … Let us consider one another.” This threefold invitation hinges on our boldness to enter into the holiest. And this boldness (“freedom of speech”) rests on the finished work of the Saviour. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest could not enter the holy of holies unless he had the blood of the sacrifice (Heb. 9:7). But our entrance into God’s presence is not because of an animal’s blood, but because of Christ’s shed blood.

This open way into God’s presence is “new” (recent, fresh) and not a part of the Old Covenant that “waxeth [grows] old [and] is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13). It is “living” because Christ “ever liveth to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). Christ is the new and living way! We come to God through Him, our High Priest over the house of God (the church, see Heb. 3:6). When His flesh was torn on the cross, and His life sacrificed, God tore the veil in the temple. This symbolized the new and living way now opened for all who believe.

On the basis of these assurances—that we have boldness to enter because we have a living High Priest—we have an “open invitation” to enter the presence of God. The Old Covenant high priest visited the holy of holies once a year, but we are invited to dwell in the presence of God every moment of each day. What a tremendous privilege! Consider what is involved in this threefold invitation.

Let us draw near (v. 22). Of course, we must prepare ourselves spiritually to fellowship with God. The Old Testament priest had to go through various washings and the applying of blood on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). Also, during the regular daily ministry, the priests had to wash at the laver before they entered the holy place (Ex. 30:18–21). The New Testament Christian must come to God with a pure heart and a clean conscience. Fellowship with God demands purity (1 John 1:5–2:2).

Let us hold fast (v. 23). The readers of this epistle were being tempted to forsake their confession of Jesus Christ by going back to the Old Covenant worship. The writer did not exhort them to hold on to their salvation, because their security was in Christ and not in themselves (Heb. 7:25). Rather, he invited them to hold fast “the profession [confession] of … hope.” (There is no manuscript evidence for the word “faith.” The Greek word is “hope.”)

We have noted in our study of Hebrews that there is an emphasis on the glorious hope of the believer. God is “bringing many sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10). Believers are “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1) and therefore can rejoice in hope (Heb. 3:6). Hope is one of the main themes of Hebrews 6 (vv. 11–12, 18–20). We are looking for Christ to return (Heb. 9:28) and we are seeking that city that is yet to come (Heb. 13:14).

When a believer has his hope fixed on Christ, and relies on the faithfulness of God, then he will not waver. Instead of looking back (as the Jews so often did), we should look ahead to the coming of the Lord.

Let us consider one another (vv. 24–25). Fellowship with God must never become selfish. We must also fellowship with other Christians in the local assembly. Apparently, some of the wavering believers had been absenting themselves from the church fellowship. It is interesting to note that the emphasis here is not on what a believer gets from the assembly, but rather on what he can contribute to the assembly. Faithfulness in church attendance encourages others and provokes them to love and good works. One of the strong motives for faithfulness is the soon coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, the only other place the word translated “assembling” (Heb. 10:25) is used in the New Testament is in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, where it’s translated “gathering” and deals with the coming of Christ.

The three great Christian virtues are evidenced here: faith (Heb. 10:22), hope (Heb. 10:23), and love (Heb. 10:24). They are the fruit of our fellowship with God in His heavenly sanctuary.[1]


[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 313–315). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.