The offerings of animal sacrifice were preparatory for the coming of Christ. They at once demonstrated the need of blood to atone for sin, and the insufficiency of animal sacrifice to bring about the desired change in man’s condition.
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.
But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. (Heb.10:1-3)
Perfection is found in obedience to God’s will; not just perfunctory abstinence from vice, but fulfilling the good will of God’s reconciliation though growing in grace and knowledge. When Christ came into the world He “. . became flesh and dwelt among us. .” This was necessary to make a way for man’s perfection. He is the “captain of our salvation”, the “forerunner” who has entered into the presence of the Father. He became one of us to be “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me.” (Heb.10:5)
A body was prepared for obedience, a human body.
Jesus’ mission statement is clear –
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come--In the volume of the book it is written of Me--To do Your will, O God.’” (Heb.10:7)
He was given a body like ours to do the thing we could not do – as one of us; “To do Your will, O God.” Now we are able to follow the captain of our salvation.
People have argued that Jesus could not have had a body like ours. This idea is predicated on the mistaken / false premise that the human body is evil, born with original sin. Having a body subject to death, hence subject to temptations is different than a body which has sin built right in. “Sinful flesh”, as expressed in Romans 8:3, is flesh brought into sin through submission of the body’s possessor to sin. Sin occurs in the flesh because we yield to temptation. Thus the flesh is “sinful.” Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh, not that He had a different body, but a body He kept from committing sin through His faithful submission to the Father’s will.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Thus the means for us to follow is founded within the sphere of our existence. It is an accessible way.
An example of this new capacity to follow Jesus can be seen in Peter.
Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” (John 3:36)
We remember the account of Peter’s subsequent failure, when he denied the Lord three times. We must also remember what he was like after the way was made through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter (and John) stood before the threatening council and said;
“This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12)
These words were not uttered in rashness of spirit or defiance, they were uttered in the good will of God with all boldness. Peter was a changed man. This happened because Jesus had a body like ours and forged a way for Peter and all others who will follow. Because of Jesus’ body we can take up our cross and follow Him.
One might point to a brother’s sin and argue the burden of obedience is outside our measure. Yes, we sin after being converted (at least, most of us do). But it is wrong to say; “We could not help it.” And it is just as wrong to look at it as an inevitable condition which the grace of God permits. The grace of God gives us opportunity to repent and grow.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (I John 1:8-10)
It might be said there is no practical difference between the responsibilities of obedience in the Law of Moses and the Law of the Spirit of Life. This is true in as much as each covenant had / has its perimeter of responsibilities (or requirements) set up by God. But there is a difference. The adulterer is not stoned, but rather given the opportunity to make something of himself. The murderer can become a benefactor of goodness. The gospel of Christ calls us to conversion which the Law of Moses could not facilitate. As it is written;
that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another.
"Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
nor give place to the devil.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Eph.4:22-28)
The Father knows the reality of children learning to walk. He placed Jesus in the position of helping us as we learn stability and maturity.
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (I John 2:1)
To deny Jesus’ body is to deny His power to be our Advocate. It is to deny He was made like us, yet without sin. It is to deny His obedience. No wonder John wrote;
. . . every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (I John 4:3)
Every effort to preach a way of Jesus which rejects obedience to the Father’s will is antichrist. Every circumvention of the Father’s will carried out in the name of Jesus Christ is antichrist. Why? An essential fact is denied; “. . a body You have prepared for Me.”
To confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is to shoulder the burden of the cross in humble obedience to our Heavenly Father. It is a confession of faith. “I have come. . . to do your will O God.”