Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
Imagine receiving a prescription from a doctor. He writes down the name of the medicine on the paper and then tells you, ″This medicine will cure you.″ Now, you and I know that the piece of paper or the name of the medicine on it cannot do the actual healing. You would need to find a pharmacy or drug store to purchase the actual medicine, take it, and be healed. For Jewish Christians to hang on to the rituals and sacrifices of the old covenant would be akin to the patient hanging on to the prescription paper for healing. It is akin to not realising the difference between the prescription and the actual medicine.
It is a similar argument that the writer makes to help his readers to differentiate between the shadow and the substance, between the symbolic and real faith that produces spiritual transformation (Hebrews 10:1). The sacrifices in the tabernacle or temple had to be repeated endlessly because they were unable to ″make perfect those who draw near to worship″ (v. 1). It is similar to the patient who keeps looking at the prescription only to find that he is still not cured. In the same way, the annual sacrifices were an ″annual reminder of sins″ (v. 3) that refused to go away because one is not cleansed internally by the blood of sacrificial animals. They may purify one ritually, but not internally (v. 4). Coming back to our patient, suppose that even after getting the actual medicine from the pharmacy, he just looks daily at the prescription without ever taking the medicine! We would find that very odd.
In the same way, it was very odd that Jewish Christians, who now had Christ in their hearts, would be tempted to return to the ritual practices of Judaism. These practices were just shadows of the real Saviour and His perfect sacrifice for our sins. His sacrifice would take away the penalty, power, and one day, the very presence of sin once and for all. Why return to the prescription paper when the real medicine is now available?
Why was returning to old covenant practices not helpful when the Jewish Christians now worshipped Christ and followed Him? Is there any way we may do something similar in our lives? Think of the difference between relying on rituals and growing in a real relationship with Jesus.
What does the phrase ″once for all″ (Hebrews 10:2) mean for you? How do Christians show that they may not really believe in this, trying to supplement the finished work of Jesus on the cross? What can we do to avoid this?