The Gift and the Sacrifice

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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this already in this forum, but Hebrews is my personal favorite book of the Bible. One of the main facets of the book as a whole that influences this favoritism so much is because of its description of Christ. A good portion of the Bible is devoted to what Christ has done throughout time (even before time in some cases… John 1 and Ephesians 1 are examples), but there are also a few places that describe what Christ is doing even right now. Hebrews and 1 John include two of these places, and an interesting connection can be found between them. 

The “second chunk” of Hebrews, which runs from the end of chapter 2 to the beginning of chapter 5, is all about the rest of God. The implication is that this is the same rest that is talked about in Genesis 2, where it says that God rested after Creation. In this case, the specifics are unclear; it has been suggested that this is when God first created what we know as heaven and moved there Himself (that makes sense if you consider the fact that wherever He would have been before would have been spoiled by Satan’s pride, described in Isaiah 14, and the subsequent war, which John sees part of in Revelation 12). In any case, God creates a rest for Himself, and it is made clear early on that this is where He wants to bring humanity so that they can be with Him. The Hebrew writer talks in this section about the reasons why the children of Israel, which God called first in Exodus, could not obtain this rest. For one thing, many of them were so stubborn and disobedient that they were killed before they could even make it to a physical place of rest. For another, the covenant introduced by the Law of Moses was not final; even when He introduced it, God spoke of another covenant to come that would allow people to truly come to know God. At the end of chapter 4, the writer uses this idea and begins to make the transition towards Christ. Because Christ is the center of the new covenant, He is the One through Whom we can know the Father and truly enter that rest. As the Spirit says in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Now, finally, on to chapter 5, where the writer begins talking about Christ as the High Priest of a new covenant. This first verse is where the first half of our connection comes from. We know from a reading of the Old Law (specifically the first 9 chapters of Leviticus) that it was the job of the priests to offer gifts and sacrifices for the people. In offering these two things, the priests could cover the sins of the people and retain their ability to have a relationship with God. In Hebrews 5:1, the writer repeats this idea. The implication here is that this was the duty of Christ, as well. It would have to be if we were to accept Him as our own High Priest. A gift and a sacrifice must come from somewhere. 

Thankfully, they have. Of course, we as Christians know that Christ Himself was the sacrifice for us when He gave His life in our stead. This was done in quite a literal sense. In John 19:34, the apostle makes a point of saying that both water and blood flowed from the Savior following His death. The two substances responsible for giving life physically were what Christ gave freely while on the cross. According to Peter, Christ has also supplied us with the necessary gift. Part of his famous statement in Acts 2:38 is a promise of the “gift of the Holy Spirit” for those who obey the will of God that Christ died to establish. Those are the sacrifice and gift that we all need to avoid sin. 

This is where 1 John comes in. Towards the end of his letter, in chapter 5, John talks about the unity that the Christian has with God and the victory that is shared by both in Christ. As a final encouraging thought for his audience, he speaks to the assurance of salvation that the Christian has in the death of Christ. He mentions the Holy Trinity as three Witnesses to our salvation in heaven. Then, in 1 John 5:8, he mentions the three physical witnesses that assure us of salvation: blood, water, and the Spirit. Our gift and our sacrifice. The specifics and details of Christ’s death were by no means accidental or coincidental. Christ gave His all for us, and His all is all that we need. 

This connection suggests two things to me. Number one – personally, I don’t see how anyone can see this and still deny the necessity of baptism. Baptism is the one act through which we come into contact with all three of these things! It is the perfect entrance into the kingdom of God, which is why a perfect God has clearly ordained it as such. Number two – personally, I don’t see how any faithful Christian can see this and still doubt their salvation. All of these things have been given to us. We cannot earn our own salvation; Ephesians 2:8-9 makes that clear. As Jesus put it in John 3:13, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” God had to come to us for our salvation, not the other way around. Christ is how He accomplished that, how He gave us what we needed, and how we can know that we have all that we need. If you have accepted these things in baptism, if your faith is where it needs to be, and if you are living a life that believes in and proves the power of our gift and sacrifice Christ Jesus, then congratulations. God has overcome the world for you, and rest is on its way.

“‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.’ This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” ~ John 12:32-33