Hebrews 10:15–18, “15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
Today’s passage offers a paraphrase of the prophecy of the new covenant found in Jeremiah 31. You will remember that this passage is quoted at length in Hebrews 8 in order to remind the readers that they live in the period of the new covenant. Chapters 9 and 10:1–14 offered an extended discussion on Christ’s effectual sacrifice, which brings the purity promised to the people of God in the new covenant. Though this purity is not yet an experiential reality, we are most certainly already holy in the eyes of God because of Christ. This positional holiness guarantees that we will experience perfect holiness of life, albeit not until the new heavens and the new earth.
By repeating this prophecy in 10:15–18, the author provides even more support for the superiority of the new covenant sacrifice and concludes his teaching on it so that he can focus on exhortation in the rest of his letter. Before we look at these verses in any detail, let us first note that Christ has already inaugurated the new covenant. By His death, Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant (Heb. 9:15).
Today we see that under the new covenant, God no longer remembers our sins (10:17). This does not mean that God forgets our evil. Rather, it means that God no longer holds our sins against us. It means that God forgives our sin and will remove its presence from us.
Why are these two facts important? The audience thought that it was possible to go back to the old covenant and still have salvation. But the author of Hebrews is arguing that this is impossible. This is because we are in the new covenant. Jesus has come and completed the work necessary to achieve the forgiveness and removal of sin. Though the presence of sin remains, when God looks at us He sees the righteousness of Christ. Those of us who are in Christ have the benefit of having our sins remembered no more. Positionally, we are not guilty. According to God’s judgment, it is as if we are perfect already even though this perfection has not yet fully manifested itself.
Since the forgiveness is already here, there is nothing left to be done to achieve it. Thus there is no more need for sacrifice (v. 18). And if there is no more need for sacrifice, to go back to the temple sacrifices would be nothing less than a denial of Christ’s perfect sacrifice and hence a denial of the only means of salvation.
Jeremiah looked forward to the day when God would remember the sins of His people no more. In this day there would be no more need for sacrifice because the work would have been done to achieve this reality. Praise God that, if you are in Christ, He no longer holds your sin against you, and live in gratitude for your salvation.