Are there contradictions in the Bible? Well, it was inspired by a Creator who put contradictions into His creation. We call them paradoxes, but in essence they are still contradictions. They exist all around us, and we are in the habit of creating and using them ourselves.
In Hebrews 9, the writer makes a case that blood was used under the law of Moses on everything, in order to sanctify it (make it holy). And he makes this statement:
And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.Hebrews 9:21-22 NASB
The assertion is that forgiveness comes through the shedding of blood, and the assertion is attributed to the law which God gave to Moses. So, it is God saying that forgiveness requires the shedding of blood. But there’s a problem, or seems to be:
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.Hebrews 10:1-4 NASB
Let’s start with the first verse of chapter 10, because it, alone, holds several…conundrums. First off, the goal of the process of the law seems to be perfection of those who worship. I don’t know that I would have drawn that conclusion from within the process, as one of the worshipers. It’s true in the sense that holiness (purity) is necessary to approach our Holy Creator. But, as he points out, this ritual purity was not “durable”.
So the problem is that the process didn’t stop the worshiper from sinning, and, therefore, becoming profane again. And that necessitated the repetition of the process regularly, daily in one sense, annually in another. The lack of durability, and that as the stated goal of the process is probably our first paradox: The solution provided by our Savior through Moses didn’t do the trick, but it alluded to the solution to come.
But, my question is, does “Jesus stop me from sinning? Am I ‘perfect’ now that Jesus is my Savior?” Paul doesn’t seem to think so (Romans 7), and neither does John (1 John 1). But they both claim there is a “freedom” from sin (Romans 8, 1 John 2), said in different ways at different places within their writings.
Perhaps a reminder of the problem being fixed is in order: access to our Creator. Nothing “unholy” or “profane” can approach our Creator. We, in our natural state, are unholy profane creatures, and it’s our own fault. The process of worship prescribed in the Law of Moses brought access through an intermediary (sort of, lots of “exceptions”). Jesus provides perfect access without dependence upon our holiness. Or, said another way, the holiness He provides is durable.
The writer of Hebrews has made a case for this durable holiness using the Law of Moses in contrast to the work of Jesus, on the cross and in heaven. And, within the argument He comes upon this paradox: There is no forgiveness without blood (Heb. 9:22), but the blood of bulls and goats is insufficient (Heb. 10:4).
Keep in mind that part of his argument relies on the various exceptions, David, Abraham, Jacob, even Moses. The following quotes from Psalms in the remainder of chapter 10 are allusions to the “Role Call of Faith” to come in the next chapter. These exceptions clue us in to the holiness enjoyed by us through Jesus. It’s not our own holiness, it’s His. His holiness is as durable as He is!
So, yes, we are forgiven through the shedding of blood, not our own, and not the blood of bulls or goats. We are forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus, shed by Him on our behalf. That forgiveness and sanctification is durable, having been done once and for all time, backwards and forwards from the point in time when it was shed.
So, this paradox having been resolved, leaves the question, what will you do? Will you, by faith, rely on the durable holiness of our Creator? Or will you seek another route, perhaps to bypass the requirement of life-blood altogether? That is the nature of rebellion, attempting to bypass the design of our Creator. I don’t recommend it. It creates its own set of deadly paradoxes (Matt. 6:25-34, 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-37, Luke 9:23-25, James 4:4).
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation