The Gifts and Sacrifices Prescribed By the Law (Hebrews 8:3-4)
“Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law” ( Hebrews 8:3-4 )
Jesus’ priesthood is unlike any other. The writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to disconnect Jesus’ priesthood from the Levitical line. The picture he paints of the Levitical priesthood is a system that continually operates over and over without having permanence or resolution (Hebrews 7). In fact he mentions this very idea five times throughout the entire book, each time building on the last, making it more apparent that this system could not accomplish what Jesus could ( Hebrews 5:1, Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 8:3, Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 10:11 ).
The book of Leviticus describes the required gifts and sacrifices the priests were to make on behalf of the people. There were burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace, sin and guilt offerings, each sacrifice had specific guidelines and rituals required when making them. However, the result was the same; when the offering was made it was accepted by the Lord and became a pleasing aroma to Him. The priests were the only ones able to offer these gifts and sacrifices. It was their primary duty.
In the same way, Jesus, our High Priest, was also required to offer both gifts and sacrifices. The difference is that Jesus’ gifts and His sacrifice were far superior to the gifts offered according to the law. He did not bring animals to sacrifice as a covering for sin. He presented His body, which was prepared and given for this very purpose ( Hebrews 10:5-7 ). His sacrifice completely and utterly wiped away sin and its effects, so there was not even a record of them to accuse us ( II Corinthians 5:19, Hebrews 10:17-18, I John 2:2 ). The New Testament tells us that Jesus’ sacrifice was a fragrant and pleasing aroma to God ( Ephesians 5:2 ).
In fact, Jesus’ gifts and sacrifice did several things that the Levitical priesthood could never do and only hinted at. First, Jesus paid the debt left by sin, making our account balanced, absolving us from all guilt before God ( Romans 4:25, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:22 ). Secondly, He took our old sin nature gave us a new life fashioned after His own ( Romans 6:4, II Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:24, I Peter 3:18 ). Next, He died so we could live apart from the law while obtaining the righteousness described within the law ( II Corinthians 5:21 ). This removed death’s claim on us ( I Corinthians 15:55, Ephesians 4:7-8, I Peter 3:18 ). Lastly through Jesus, not the law, we will experience the incomparable riches of His grace for all eternity ( Ephesians 2:7 ). This is why Jesus’ priesthood is unparalleled to any other.
In contrast to the Levitical line, Jesus only offered these gifts and sacrifices once. He did not do it over and over, once was all it took. In the same way that the writer of Hebrews describes the continual offerings of the earthly priesthood to show that the old system was inadequate, he points out many times how Jesus’ sacrifice worked the one and only time it was given ( Hebrews 5:9, Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 7:24-25, Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 9:28, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:18, Hebrews 10:22-23 ). This alone, shows how superior Jesus’ priesthood is. We are eternally blessed by the fact that Jesus has been appointed as our High Priest before God, making intercession for us. Faith in the saving name of Jesus alone is all it takes to secure a hope and future with Him eternally.