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The Uniqueness of Christ’s Sacrifice The Uniqueness of Christ’s Sacrifice

The Uniqueness of Christ’s Sacrifice


A shadow is a mere silhouette of the person or object. From looking at the shadow we might be able to guess the object’s shape and size, perhaps, but only when we turn to the object itself can we see it with clarity and in detail.

Scripture uses that same metaphor when talking about the old covenant: “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves” (v. 1). In particular, today’s reading focuses on the uniqueness of Christ’s sacrifice compared to the sacrifices under the law. They could never “make perfect those who draw near in worship” (v. 1).

While the old sacrificial system made forgiveness possible (see Lev. 4:35), its atonement was incomplete. There was no internal cleansing; one’s sense of guilt remained. Moreover, those sacrifices had to be repeated again and again, becoming “an annual reminder of sins” (v. 3). Scripture forcefully declares the inadequacy of that old system: “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (v. 4).

If that is the “shadow,” what is the reality? Using Psalm 40, the author of Hebrews points to the answer: Christ and His perfect sacrifice. The psalm teaches that “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire” (v. 5). Although required by the Law, God’s true desire was for a faithful heart to match the offering (see 1 Sam. 15:22). Only in the coming of Christ do we find a perfect sacrifice (“a body you prepared for me” [v. 5]), because only in Christ is there perfect obedience: “Here I am . . . I have come to do your will” (v. 7). Christ’s sacrifice is unique; through it “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (v. 10).

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BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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