In the Book of Hebrews, the author compares the continuing sacrifices of priestly system of Judaism to the “once-for-all” sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The levitical priest had to offer a sacrifice for his own sin. Jesus did not have to offer a sacrifice for his own sin because he was without sin. The levitical priest offered sacrifices continually. Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice once for all. The levitical sacrifices could not forgive sins. Jesus’ sacrifice was effective in forgiving sins. Thus, the author of Hebrews was able to state that the sacrifice of Jesus was “better” than the sacrifices of the levitical priestly system.
However, Jesus’ sacrifice did not do away with priests or sacrifices. No, Jesus did not destroy the priestly and sacrificial systems. Instead, he turned it inside out. Now, the priests are not special members separated from the other people of God; all of the people of God are priests. Now, sacrifices are not offered only by certain special members of the people of God; all of the people of God can offer sacrifices.
In Hebrews 10:19, the author of Hebrews reminds his readers that because of the finished work of Jesus, they all could enter into the Holiest place, which is not the inner sanctuary of an earthly temple, but into the very presence of God himself. Similarly, in Hebrews 10:22, the author tells his readers that they have been consecrated as priests – with sprinkling and washing, but not just sprinkling and washing that affect the outside of priest, but sprinkling and washing that cleanses the readers from the inside out.
Also, these new covenant priests – meaning the believers hearing Hebrews and even us today – continue to offer sacrifices:
Through him [Jesus Christ] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:15-16 ESV)
We are forgiven, cleansed, sanctified, and enabled to offer sacrifices of paise to God through Jesus Christ, and we are able to offer pleasing sacrifices to God by doing good to other people and sharing what we have with others. As priests of the new covenant, we are to offer these sacrifices continually in response to Jesus’ “once-for-all” sacrifice.
Peter also recognized our role as new covenant priests:
As you come to him [Jesus Christ], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV)
Have you offered sacrifices of praise to God today? Have you pleased God with your sacrifices of doing good deeds for others and giving to others?