Hebrews 10:1-18

 |  November 28, 2016

  1. Locate the passage.

This section concludes the expositional section begun at 7:1.

  1. Genre

Expository. There are no command forms in the passage.

  1. Determine the structure of the text

There are four sub-paragraphs making up this section:

10:1-4              The Mosaic Law of repeated sacrifices is inadequate; it cannot perfect believers.

10:5-10            Atonement of Christ supersedes repeated Mosaic Law sacrifices; Christ’s

sacrifice sanctifies believers.

10:11-14          Priesthood of Christ supersedes Levitical priesthood; believers are perfected by

Christ’s sacrifice.

10:15-18          The new covenant renders Mosaic sacrifices unnecessary; they have been


  1. Exegete the passage

A number of features provide cohesion to this unit, including references to perfection, sanctification, and forgiveness in vv.1, 10, 14, 18. There is a parallel between the perfect tense in v. 14 and the perfect in v. 10, translated “we have been made holy,” and both serve to form a semantic tie with v. 1, where the law and the Levitical system cannot “perfect” (aorist tense) those who draw near for worship.

A fundamental shift in perspective occurs in 10:1–18. Whereas in 9:11–28 the focus was on the objective aspects of Christ’s offering, in 10:1–18 the focus shifts to the subjective effects of Christ’s offering. Hebrews 10:1–18 is given lexical cohesion through the repetition of three key terms associated with the offering of sacrifice for sins: “to offer sacrifice” (10:1, 2, 8, 11, 12), “offering” (10:5, 8, 10, 14, 18), and “sins” (10:2, 3, 6, 8, 12, 17, 18).

In vv. 1–4, the author demonstrates the Mosaic law is incapable of bringing perfection. Most of the semantic content of these verses is either repetition or paraphrase of the previous two chapters.

10:1 Verse 1 begins with gar, usually untranslated, and provides the grounds for 9:24–28.

10:2 Verse 2 begins with “since” which introduces a consequence to an implied contrary to fact condition couched in the surface structure form of a rhetorical question. The conjunction stands as a semantic surrogate for something like “if the law, by the sacrifice it prescribes, could have perfected the worshipers . . . .”

10:3 The conjunction alla, “but,” at the beginning of v. 3 can be construed in an adversative sense or adverbially in the sense of assent: “really, in them. . . .”

10:4 The use of gar, “because,” gives the reason why the OT sacrifices were inadequate and also explains 10:1.

10:5–6 Verse 5 is introduced with the conjunction dio, “therefore,” which governs the second paragraph of this unit (10:5–10). This paragraph contains an important quotation from Ps 40:6–8.

10:7 The quotation continues in v. 7 with the statement “then I said” which introduces an unusual quote within a quote, and indicates Jesus regarded himself as consciously fulfilling this prophecy.

10:8 The word “first” in v. 8 is the interpretative rendering of the Greek “above,” with the meaning “referring to what has just been said.” It can be taken to refer to vv. 5 or 6 or both.

10:9 In v. 9, the author follows up the repetition of the first part of the quotation in v. 8 with the repetition of the latter part of the quotation. The shift from the first person aorist “I said” in v. 7 to the third person perfect “he said” here in v. 9 is significant. With the use of the perfect tense verb, the author stresses the permanence of what has been said here, whereas in v. 7 the focus was on the fact that it was Jesus who said it and not David.

10:10 Verse 10 concludes the second paragraph in Heb 10 and is in the Greek text the continuation of a sentence begun in v. 8. Because God willed it, and by means of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins on the cross, believers have been made holy. The will of God expresses the reason for believers being made holy and the result is shown in the construction in Greek which literally reads: “we are having been made holy.” The means of our sanctification is the offering of the body of Christ in obedience to the will of God.

10:11 The use of kai, “and,” in v. 11 marks a new paragraph and the mende construction marks out the paragraph boundary through v. 14.

10:12 Verse 12 begins with de, “but,” thus balancing out the men (untranslated) in v. 11. “This priest” refers of course to Jesus.

10:13 Verse 13 makes a statement concerning the Son’s “waiting” for his enemies “to be made his footstool.”

10:14 Verse 14 is introduced by the Greek conjunction gar, “because,” which gives the grounds for the conclusion in vv. 12–13 that atonement is completed. The reference to “sacrifice” harks back to v. 10 where the offering of Christ’s body paid the sin debt. The word “one” is again fronted in the Greek text for emphasis. The perfect tense verb here, “he has made perfect,” is exegetically and theologically significant. It is the last of nine such perfects in the doctrinal section of the epistle (7:1–10:18).

See Neva Miller, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Analytical and Exegetical Handbook, 276-93; J. Harold Greenlee, Hebrews: An Exegetical Summary, 359-84; and David L. Allen, Hebrews, 491-507, for more detailed exegetical and semantic analysis of the text.

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the structure of the sermon.

Since there are four sub-paragraphs in this section, there will be four divisions in the sermon structure. Everything drives toward the conclusion of v. 18.

Paragraph 1 (10:1-4) states the general principle that the Mosaic Law is inadequate to perfect believers. Paragraph 2 (10:5-10) and Paragraph 3 (10:11-14) provide specific grounds/reasons why the Mosaic Law is inadequate: the atonement of Christ is final and supersedes the Mosaic Law and the priesthood of Christ is final and supersedes the Levitical priesthood. Paragraph 4 (10:15-18) is the most dominant material semantically and serves as the conclusion to the argument: The new covenant renders the old covenant unnecessary.

Introduction (10:1-4)

Grounds for 10:15-18 – (10:5-10)

Grounds for 10:15-18 – (10:11-14)

Conclusion (10:15-18)

Category: Sermon Structure
Tags: , ,

Share This Post: