…all thing are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. - Vs 22 (NASB)
The concept of shed blood would not have been foreign to the writer's Hebrew audience. In fact, they were well aware of the role blood played in their sacrificial system. But the author is comparing the old and the new. The old covenant (law) and the new covenant (grace). Under the old covenant, the High Priest had to enter the Holy of Holies "year by year with blood that is not his own" (Vs 25). No one sacrifice was enough. And his sacrifice was to cover the sins of the people and his own as well. He was just as sinful and in need of cleansing. Even Moses inaugurated the giving of the covenant with blood. "He took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people" (Vs 19). "Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood" (Vs 18). Blood played a major role in the old covenant. The purpose of the blood was to symbolize sacrifice for sin, which brought cleansing from sin.
Even under the old covenant, forgiveness was a costly thing. It involved the loss of life. In the case of the old covenant, the lives of countless innocent animals. But under the new covenant, the loss of the life of Jesus Christ Himself – the sinless, innocent Son of God. But we take forgiveness so lightly. We are grateful that we have forgiveness for our sins and it is readily available any time we ask for it. We love verses like 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." But Paul warns us in Romans 6:1-2: "Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?" I love what John MacArthur has to say on this topic in his commentary on Hebrews:
To realize and rejoice in God's boundless grace is one thing; to presume on it by willfully sinning is quite another. How can we, as forgiven sinners, take lightly and presumptuously, the price paid for our forgiveness? We become so used to grace that we abuse it.
Our sin cost Jesus His life. It's why He came. Yet we can't overlook the cost. We can't ignore the fact that your sin and my sin are the reason He died. Our sinfulness caused His blood to be shed. Because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Our sin demanded payment by death. And the only death that could pay for all the sins of mankind was that of the sinless Son of God. God didn't overlook sin, He provided the payment for it. And it cost Him dearly. So should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! The Savior of the world has paid for the sins of the world with His own life – once for all. And one day He is coming back, but this time not to deal with sin, but to consummate our salvation. "So also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again but not to deal with our sins again. This time he will bring salvation to all those who are eagerly waiting for him" (Vs 28). So lets live our lives in appreciation for the forgiveness we have been given and in anticipation of the salvation we will one day receive.
Father, thank You for Your Son's selfless sacrifice. Thank You for the blood that was shed for me. Forgive me for taking His death so lightly and Your grace so cheaply, without considering the cost. Without Jesus shedding His blood, I would have NO forgiveness for my sin and NO hope for salvation. Keep that thought in the forefront of my mind at all times, so that I might live a life that reflects my appreciation and gratitude. I can never repay You, but I can live for You. Amen