Sermon: Christ Fulfills the Scriptures
Scripture: Matthew 5:17
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means that Jesus fulfilled what was written in the law and the prophets.
Theme: Why Sacrifices?
Someone will object, however, “But doesn’t the Bible say that God does not desire sacrifices? Doesn’t Hebrews 10:4 say that ‘It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins’? And doesn’t Psalm 40:6 say, ‘Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire… burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required’?” Yes, it does. “Well, then, how is it possible that these verses exist along with all of the other verses that speak of the need for sacrifices in the terms that you have given to it?”
The answer to that problem is to be seen in the purpose for which God established the sacrifices. God established them, but they were not ends in themselves. If that were true, we would have sacrifices today. Actually, they were signposts to point to the Lord Jesus Christ. God gave them in order to teach over a long period of time that sin meant death, either the death of the individual himself, the sinner, or else the death of an innocent substitute.
It would be possible to say, using modern terminology, that God was establishing a conditioned reflex in the people much as scientists are able to do with animals today. Take Pavlov as an example. Pavlov was a Russian engaged in pioneer work in the behavioral sciences, and he wished to demonstrate that certain physical reflexes could be built into a person or an animal by external conditioning.
He took a dog when it was quite young and began to feed it under special conditions. Now, as anyone who has worked closely with animals knows, a dog’s mouth begins to produce saliva whenever food is set before him and only then. Pavlov wondered if the physical reflex could be built into the dog to salivate even when there was no food before it. So he tried something. Every time the puppy was to be fed, a bell was first rung and then the food was placed before him. The bell was rung and the food appeared. This went on for a long time. Eventually, when the day came for his test, Pavlov rang the bell as usual but this time had no food available. Still the dog’s mouth began to produce saliva. Thus, Pavlov succeeded in showing that a natural physical reflex could be established by an external and artificial stimulus.
That is what God was doing throughout the Old Testament period by means of the sacrifices. He was building a conditioned reflex into the people so that when Jesus Christ should come they would understand his coming, and when they sinned they would know that they needed a substitute. Just as the dog would learn to recognize the sequence that a bell means dinner, so the people of Israel would learn to recognize the sequence that sin means death, and that they would avoid their own spiritual death by means of a sacrifice. God took centuries to teach this great spiritual lesson, and he did so in order that men would understand Christ’s death when he was crucified. Thus, even the law teaches that only the perfect sacrifice made by the perfect lamb would fulfill it.
How do we answer the idea that in the Bible God is said not to desire sacrifices along with the stated need for them?
Explain what God was doing in the Old Testament by the use of sacrifices.
Prayer: Give thanks to the Lord for the perfect sacrifice of his Son on your sinful behalf. Pray for others who are not Christians and therefore need to come to a saving knowledge of Christ.