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Acceptable Sacrifices To The LORD- Hebrews 13:15-16

Illustration: Every week I meet with a friend at Duncan Donuts. There is a man who always brings his three young kids to get donuts before school. Recently, they sat down with their food and the dad gave a short lesson to his kids about being grateful for the breakfast that they were about to enjoy. He told his kids that they should always say thanks to their parents for these things. What caught my attention was that they then began to eat without giving thanks to their Heavenly Father.

In a similar way, Christians can easily neglect to praise the LORD and thank Him for their salvation and so many other things. The LORD has been so gracious to us, therefore, we are to ‘continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God with lips that acknowledge his name’. The LORD has been so gracious to us so we are to ‘not neglect to do good and to share what you have. These are two sacrifices that a grateful believer can offer continually to God which pleases Him.

Our text is Hebrews 13:9-16. It says, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Last week we saw that the word ‘for’ shows up three times in this text. The author of Hebrews is exhorting every Christian that they have been given three blessings.

  • First, our hearts have been strengthened by grace. We are ‘not to be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for (because) it is good for the heart to be strengthened in grace’(9). A graceless heart cannot cannot produce a strong Christian life. (13:15-16)

  • Second, we have a better altar through which we can be sanctified. We are not to ‘be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for (because) we have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.’ (10) A graceless heart prefers to engage in Christless religious pursuits.

  • Third, we have been given an unshakable kingdom. We were told not to be ‘led away by diverse and strange teachings, for (because) here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.’ (14) A graceless heart will look to the things of this world instead of looking to the kingdom that will not be shaken and to the King who is enthroned there. A graceless heart will listen to the philosophies of this world and not have a mind that is set upon Christ and His teaching. (Colossians 2:8-15)

We can make three factual observations from Hebrews 13:9-16 that will help to show the significance of verses 15-16.   First, we have a high priest. Secondly, we have an altar. Third, we are to offer acceptable and pleasing sacrifices to the LORD.

1. We Still Need A Great High Priest- Ever since the fall we have needed a mediator to represent us before a holy God. Under the Old Covenant the people of God needed a high priest to represent them before God. In the New Covenant Jesus is our Great High Priest who represents us before God.

2. Christians Have A Better Altar Than The One In The Old Covenant- In the Old Covenant the priest would offer the blood of the sacrifice at the altar. Last week we saw that New Testament believers have a better altar from which we come to Christ and receive forgiveness and all His blessings.

3. Christians are to offer pleasing sacrifices to God- We may fail to appreciate and understand that we are to offer pleasing sacrifices to the LORD as New Testament believers. Does this point surprise you?

As we have studied Hebrews we have seen that we are justified by faith in Jesus and His sacrifice once and for all. Therefore, there is no longer any sacrifices for sins that we are to offer;. However, we are to give appropriate sacrifices through Christ to God which are pleasing to Him. For example, consider vv. 15-16, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Or consider 1 Peter 2:5, “ yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

A New Testament believer has a High Priest, we have an altar, Jesus has been offered up as the Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world, and now we are to offer “a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” and we are not to “neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (15-16)

  • The LORD has always been pleased with sacrifices such as these. In Psalm 50:13-14 & 23 says, “Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High...The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me…”.

  • Or Psalm 51:15-17 says, “O LORD, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Hebrews 13:15 begins with the words, “Through Him…”. These words reminds us that our union with Christ is so important. Apart from Him no sacrifice we offer pleases the LORD. Through Christ, however, our sacrifices, though mixed with sin and weakness, are acceptable to the LORD. Again, this reminds me of Davids prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 because David is trusting in the LORD Himself to cleanse him of His sin and not trusting in the blood of animals. He says, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. According to your abundant mercy (You) blot out my transgressions. (You) Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and (You) cleanse me from my sin!

The words ‘Through Him…’ reminds us that these offerings are not done so that a Christian can be justified, saved, and united to Christ. On the contrary, we offer these sacrifices continually because our union with Jesus continually provides you and I with continual grace, blessings, and mercies.

The London Baptist Confession may be helpful as we consider the significance of these things. In chapter 16 on ‘Good Works’ we read the following statements:

  • 16.2- “Good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruit and evidence of a true and living faith. Through these good works believers express their thankfulness...Believers are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, so that they bear fruit leading to holiness and have the outcome, eternal life.

  • 16.3- “Their ability to do good works does not arise at all from themselves but entirely from the Spirit of Christ.

  • 16.5&6- “Since our good works are good, they must proceed from His Spirit; and since they are performed by us, they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection...Nevertheless, believers are accepted through Christ, and thus their good works are also accepted in Him. This acceptance does not mean our good works are completely blameless and irreproachable in God’s sight. Instead, God views them in His Son, and so He is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, even though it is accompanied by many weaknesses and imperfections.

This morning I would like to attempt to stir our hearts up so that we will naturally respond in these two ways that we will see in vv.15-16. To do this please turn back a couple pages to Hebrews 9:24-28. It says, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

I would like to focus on the last part of verse 26, “But as it is, Jesus has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”.

It is not easy thing to put away sins. Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?” We may try to ignore sin, or deny sin, or to blame someone else for our sins but it is not easy to ‘put sin away’. Richard Baxter once wrote these words, “Never did man dishonor God (by a sin), but it proved the greatest dishonour to himself. God will find out ways enough to wipe off any stain that is cast upon Him (by this sin); but you will not so easily remove (the sin), the shame, and sorrow from yourselves.

After Adam sinned he could not separate himself from his sin. He tried to cloth his nakedness and run away from God but he could not separate himself from his sin. In fact, sin spread from Adam to all of his posterity. Since then no one has ever been able to put away their sin. The psalmist says, “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price for His life, for the ransom of their life is costly…”. (Pslam 49:7-8)

No amount of self-denial and religious practices can separate a person from their sins. The reformer Martin Luther knew how hard it would be to separate oneself from their sin. No amount of indulgences and no amount of penance can separate a man from their sins. No amount of ‘good works’ can ease the conscience and quiet the torment of a sinners soul. When Luther visited Rome he did many religious acts he still said to himself, ‘Who knows if all this is really true!’ No, it is not an easy thing to put away our sins!

Under the Old Covenant God commanded that sacrifices were to be offered to the LORD. Countless sacrifices were made and yet they could take away the sins of the people. These sacrifices were made every day from morning till night and yet none of these sacrifices could put away the sins. These sacrifices could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper. No, it is not an easy thing to put away our sins!

It is a very hard thing to put away sin. Do you really think it is an easy thing to do? Not even death can put away sin. The death of a sinner can put away their debt, their liabilities, their responsibilities, their obligations, their covenants; but death cannot put away our debt before God.

We see this so clearly in the first forty chapters of Isaiah where we are told that God’s anger burned against His people. The LORD would judge them and they would die; however, God’s hand would still raised up against their corpses as if He desired to strike them again. Listen to these verses from Isaiah 5:24b-25, “...for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the Holy One of Israel. Therefore, the anger of the LORD was kindled against His people, and He stretched out His hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets.” Now listen to these sobering words, “For all of this His anger has not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still.

Sin does not primarily lie in our bodies but in our hearts so even in hell sinners will keep on rebelling against God. Sin is only put away if the penalty is borne all the way to the end and no mere man can bear the judgments that their sins deserve. No, it is not an easy thing to put away our sins!

It is impossible for man to save himself from his sins but Christ has done this for us. Jesus has put away all of our sins. No man can ransom himself or give to God the price of his life, but the psalmist says in Psalm 49:15, “God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol”! God alone can do this and He does not require us to help!

Jesus’ Father has put upon His Son all of our iniquities, all our transgressions and all of our sins. Christ has ‘put away sin’! Notice that ‘sin’ is in the singular as if to show us that Christ has taken upon Himself all of our sins, all of our iniquities, and all of our transgressions. Jesus has put all our sins away. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned -every one- to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:4-6)

Christ ‘offered once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’. Jesus, the second person in the Trinity, could not save us if He had remained in heaven. No, Jesus willingly emptied Himself of the glory that He had in heaven so that He could bear the sins of many and take them away.

The LBC 8.4 says, “The LORD Jesus most willingly undertook this office. To discharge it, He... experienced the punishment that we deserved and that we should have endured and suffered. He was made sin and a curse for us. He endured extremely heavy sorrow in His soul and extremely painful sufferings in His body. He was crucified and died and remained in a state of death, yet His body did not decay…”.

Notice that Jesus takes away our sin ‘by the sacrifice of Himself’. It does not say that we help in this in any way. He alone took upon Himself our sins and the punishment that we deserve. He alone satisfied His Father and made an atonement for our sins. Jesus put away our sin all by Himself and He did not need our help in any way.

Notice that this text says that Jesus appeared ‘once at the end of the age to put away sin’. It does not say that Jesus started to put away our sins. Nor does it say that He attempted to put away our sins. It does not say that He played a part of putting away sins and now it depends upon you and I. No, Jesus ‘appeared at the end of the age to put away our sin’.

We are told that He has been ‘offered once to bear the sins of many’. Jesus did not come to save the good, the righteous, the healthy, the gifted, the dedicated and devoted, and those who are lovable. No, He came to save the many: Jews and Gentiles, men and women, young and old. Jesus came to save the poor, the blind, the sick, those imprisoned, the sinful, the weak. He came to save the rebellious, His enemies, the unlovable.

My friends, if Jesus has done all of this for us should we hesitate even for another moment to ‘offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name’? And can we who have been shown such kindness and unconditional love ‘neglect to do good and to share what you have’? Should we spend any more time in utter futility to of trying to do what cannot be done to put away our sins?

No, for with ‘such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’. Let us consider Christ and all He has done for us. Let us continue to grow in our understanding of these and cling to the gospel each day and ‘continually offer up’ pleasing sacrifices to the LORD. Let us not fail to do this. The psalmist says in Psalm 49:20, “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

The gospel is such wonderful news that we can boldly declare with the psalmist, “Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together!” (Psalm 49:1-2) Christ can put away your sin. Yes, even yours!

It is appropriate for us, those whose hearts now have been strengthened by the grace of God, to offer to God through Christ ‘a sacrifice of praise to God with lips that acknowledge his name and to not neglect to do good and to share what you have’.

Under the Old Covenant there were different kinds of sacrifices that were commanded to be given to the LORD. Some of these sacrifices were offered as sin offerings and trespass offerings. Other sacrifices were made to the LORD as an act of thanksgiving to the LORD for His mercies. These offerings were called sweet savor offerings.

  • Sin and trespass offerings were offered because of the peoples sins, iniquities and trespasses.

  • Peace offerings and thank offerings were given after the animal sacrifices were offered out of thankfulness for these offerings having been accepted by the LORD.

In the New Covenant we no longer offer sacrifices for sins. We no longer have to offer sacrifices for the removal of our trespasses and guilt because Christ has dealt with our sins once and for all. The only appropriate response from you and I is to look to Christ and then offer up to God ‘a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name’. It is also appropriate that we ‘do not neglect to do good and to share what you have’.

When we consider Christ who humbled Himself and gave us so many good gifts graciously without any merit in us we discover that it is appropriate for us to do good to others and share with others. Such sacrifices as these are appropriate and acceptable to the LORD. We read, ‘...for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’.

LORD, help us to grow in our understanding and appreciation for the gospel. Establish our minds in these truths and establish our hearts in grace so that we might continually display these pleasing sacrifices more and more to the glory of God. Amen.


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