by Mike Ratliff
13 πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε τί ἐστιν· ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν· οὐ γὰρ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλʼ ἁμαρτωλούς. Matthew 9:13 (NA28)
13 But go and learn what is the meaning of this; I desire mercy and not sacrifice, for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Matthew 9:13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Works righteousness is man’s default religion. The Jews mostly misunderstood the Old Testament sacrificial system. The point of the sacrifice was the taking away of sin and the pointing to the perfect sacrifice that would come in Christ, but most had turned it into a form of works righteousness.
In Matthew 9:13 (above) our Lord Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6.
6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 (NASB)
In this, our Lord was showing that the outward ritual of sacrifice apart from inward fulfillment of the Mosaic system, which is that Christ’s blood, was the blood of the new covenant.
27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:27-28 (NASB)
Despite what so many hyper-dispensationalists teach, the book of Acts and early church history confirms that the sacrificial system was no longer necessary and was abandoned. The emphasis in the New Testament is that Christ’s sacrifice was the perfect sacrifice, the only one that could be the propitiation, the complete taking away, of our sin (Romans 3:23-25).
The Greek word translated into English as sacrifice is θυσία (thysia), “refers to any sacrifice or offering made to a god.” It is used 15 times in the book of Hebrews. A study of this wonderful book makes it clear that the Holy Spirit inspired its author to emphasize that everything in the New Covenant is “better” than what was in the Old Covenant. Everything is better, a better priesthood (Christ; 2:17; 5:1-9), a better sacrifice (Christ; 7:27), a better living (Christ 9:9-14), a better intercession (Christ; 10:1-12).
1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Hebrews 10:1 (NASB)
As is clear in this passage, the Law with all its sacrifices and rituals was “only a shadow of the good things to come…” All in Christ have the substance of Christ and so no longer have need of the shadows. Hence, we no longer need the Law itself for we have the Living Saviour.
As Romans 12:1 makes clear, we are called to be living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service. This holiness in our daily living is a constant reminder that sin has been dealt with in Christ. Therefore, let us not give in to what our flesh wants as we continue to bear our crosses as we follow our Saviour down the narrow path he laid before us.
Soli Deo Gloria!