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9.3 Offering for Us and Himself
The Jewish high priest had to make an offering firstly for his own sins, and then for those of the people (Heb. 5:1-3). Christ's sacrifice had this same two-fold structure. Although he did not have any sins personally, Jesus was still of human nature, and needed salvation from death. This salvation was provided by God on account of Christ's own sacrifice; thus Jesus died both to gain his own salvation, and also to make ours possible. Many passages refer to this.
This section is a catalogue of the verses which prove that Christ's sacrifice was for his own benefit as well as ours. It is far longer than necessary to prove the point; but I feel that this topic is vital to appreciate if our Lord's humanity is to be properly understood. On finishing this book you may at some future stage want to think about these things on a deeper level, and therefore all this material has been included.
- The High Priest "ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins...so also Christ" fulfilled the type of the Mosaic High Priest in this respect (Heb.5:3,5). The Greek for "ought" specifically means to have a financial debt - referring to our Lord buying his own redemption as well as ours. It was "by reason" of his own humanity (Heb.5:3) that he had to do this. This does not mean that he had any personal sins which he needed to atone for. This point cannot be too highly emphasized. We were redeemed with his blood of sacrifice - and thus he was too.
- Christ "needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did, once" (Heb.7:27). There is no doubt that Paul is stressing the similarity between the priest's dual offering and that of Christ. He does so again in Heb.9:7 (cp.v.12,25). The contrast was in Christ doing so once, but the High Priest yearly. If the contrast was that Christ only offered for the people, then this would have been highlighted. Note that Christ's sacrifice was for his own "sins", which were separate from the people's - his "sins" were not ours which he carried, because in the type he made a separate offering for us. Seeing that Jesus had a perfect, sinless character, "sins" here is another way of describing sinful human nature. By metonymy, the cause (sinful nature) is spoken of as the effect. But still it needs to be emphasized that our Lord was perfect, and cannot be convicted of sin.
- God "brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd...through the blood of the everlasting covenant" (Heb.13:20), i.e. his own blood. Thus our Lord was both shepherd and slaughtered sheep, in that he led himself to slaughter, and through his blood God raised him; in the same way that he was both offering and priest.
- The AV margin of Zech.9:9 fits in perfectly: "Thy King (Jesus) cometh unto thee: he is just, and saving himself (AV 'having salvation')". These two possible translations suggest that by saving himself our Lord brought salvation to us. Through the sacrifice on the cross, Jesus atoned for his own nature so that he could achieve our redemption. It is unwise to think of his death outside the context of its purpose - of saving us.
- It must be appreciated that all references to the shedding of blood through animal sacrifices under the law are relevant in some way to Christ's sacrifice. The altar, a symbol of Christ, was atoned for once a year by blood (Ex.30:10), showing how Christ sanctified himself by his own offering. Indeed the whole of the tabernacle represented Christ, and had to be cleansed by blood (Heb.9:23). The physical furniture of the tabernacle had done no sin, although it needed purifying because of its very association with sin. And so with our Lord. The High Priest himself had to start his ministry by being sprinkled with blood, and Christ also needed his own sacrifice to begin his service for us in Heaven (Lev.8:23).
That Jesus atoned for Himself does not mean that he was personally sinful. Offering a personal sin offering does not always imply that the offerer has sinned (e.g. in Lev.12 a woman had to do this after childbirth).