“The former priests . . . were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. . . . He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:23-27).
“For Christ has entered . . . into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26).
“Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12).
One of the greatest phrases of Christian truth is “once for all.” It comes from one Greek word (ephapax) and means “once for all time.” It comes from one Greek word (ephapax) and means “once for all time.” It means that something happened that was decisive. The act accomplished so much that it need never be repeated. Any effort to repeat it would discredit the achievement that happened “once for all.”
It was a gloomy reality year after year that the priests in Israel had to offer animal sacrifices for their own sins and the sins of the people. I don’t mean there was no forgiveness. God appointed these sacrifices for the relief of his people. They sinned and needed a substitute to bear their punishment. It was mercy that God accepted the ministry of sinful priests and substitute animals.
But there was a dark side to it. It had to be done over and over. The Bible says, “In these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year” (Hebrews 10:3). The people knew that when they laid their hands on the head of a bull to transfer their sins to the animal, it would all have to be done again. No animal could suffice to suffer for human sins. Sinful priests had to sacrifice for their own sins. Mortal priests had to be replaced. Bulls and goats had no moral life and could not bear the guilt of man. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).
But there was a silver lining around this cloud of priestly insufficiency. If God honored these inadequate things, it must mean that one day he would send a servant qualified to complete what these priests could not perform—to put away sin once for all.
That’s who Jesus Christ is. He became the final Priest and the final Sacrifice. Sinless, he did not offer sacrifices for himself. Immortal, he never has to be replaced. Human, he could bear human sins. Therefore he did not offer sacrifices for himself; he offered himself as the final sacrifice. There will never be the need for another. There is one mediator between us and God. One priest. We need no other. Oh, how happy are those who draw near to God through Christ alone.
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.” Please visit Desiring God’s Website for more gospel-centered resources from John Piper. You can also download a free PDF of “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” here.