As we continue our series in Hebrews chapter ten, I want us to consider the reality that our Lord Jesus Christ was the perfect human substitute. In eternity past God determined to offer Jesus as a suitable sacrifice for His people. The author of Hebrews captures this truth when he writes, “By this will we have been sanctified” (10:10). It was none other than God Himself who ordained the sacrificial death of His Son. James Buchanan writes, “It was God’s eternal purpose to overrule the fall of man for His own glory, by a signal manifestation of all His moral perfections, in justifying the ungodly, through Christ as Mediator.”
Not only was it God’s plan to sacrifice his Son, but He also ordained the salvation of His people. Notice how the author of Hebrews puts the word sanctified in the past tense. Normally, in the New Testament, this word is used to describe the process of daily sanctification where believers are conformed into the image of Christ. However, here, it describes the once for all change for our status before God. In other words, at the moment of salvation your status was changed; you were set apart for God.
There is a contrast that I do not want you to miss in verse 10. First, the Old Testament sacrifice was an unwilling death, meaning that that animal didn’t volunteer; it was completely involuntary. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, however, was completely voluntary. The Scriptures teach that Jesus loved us and willingly volunteered Himself for us. For example, Titus 2:11–14 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
The second contrast found in the Old Testament sacrificial system is that it featured the death of irrational animals not made in the image of God. The cross featured the death of the perfect, rational, obedient God-man. the book of Hebrews reveals that Christ “had to be made like His brethren in all things” (Heb. 2:17). The apostle Paul articulates this same truth when he describes Christ as “being made in the likeness of men” and “being found in appearance as a man” (Phil. 2:7–8).
The third and final contrast found in the Old Testament sacrificial system is that the animals died at the hand of a man. At the cross, Christ ultimately died at the hand of God. 700 years before Jesus’ crucifixion, Isaiah predicted it would happen this way when he wrote, “But it pleased the Lord to crush him” (Isa. 53:10). Christ volunteered to take our place and to be our perfect substitute, and to ultimately provide what an animal could never do.
What was impossible for an irrational animal, was possible in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God used as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all those who would ever believe in Him. As the perfect Son of God, unlike the animals in the Old Testament sacrificial system, Jesus Christ was a sinless, voluntary, human substitute for us. Praise God for that reality!